Cisco exec shares virtualization vision

Says Catalyst 6500 will play key role

John McCool took over for Jayshree Ullal when the longtime and very visible Cisco data center chief resigned in May. McCool is no stranger though -- he came to Cisco in the Granite Networks acquisition during the industry's Gigabit Ethernet boom in the 1990s. Weeks into his new job as senior vice president of data center, switching and security, McCool shared some of Cisco's plans and visions with Managing Editor Jim Duffy.

What are your priorities as Cisco enters its 2009 fiscal year?

Driving the adoption of virtualized data centers, both around [the Nexus data center switch] but also around the installed base of [Catalyst] 6500s; consolidating services into the data center through wide-area applications support; and looking to drive the next-generation service plan.

What's the data center vision three to five years out?

The overarching vision is an environment that's going to add rich collaboration services to employees in the enterprise that would be location and device agnostic; and information increasingly being delivered by a virtualized data center, either on or off premise through a variety of sources.

How do you plan to further virtual machine-optimize the 6500?

We made major advancements last year in VM-ing that platform with VSS (Virtual Switching System). What we saw as a general trend was a move to larger, flatter Layer 2 designs to support VM and virtual machine mobilization. The downsides of Layer 2 as we all know are spanning tree and spanning tree loops, so there are a lot of reasons people haven't done this in the past. With VSS, we allow customers to bond two 6500s and basically use what previously would have been an active and redundant link to their access switches both as active. So they double the bandwidth of their aggregate switching system and they eliminate spanning tree at the access edge. It's doing well for us in a lot of data center designs and specifically with customers that want to VM-ize their data centers. You'll continue to see innovations in that product line around those kind of techniques.

Can you shed any light on your "Big Bang" project for the campus? [Editor's note: Observers have been speculating that a significant upgrade for Cisco's campus product line, anchored by the aging Catalyst 6500 switch, could follow the recent overhauls of the data center and edge aggregation router product lines.]

No. I can't confirm or deny 'Big Bang'?

Even before I took this role, I got that [commitment to the Catalyst 6500] question quite a bit. I got this before the Nexus coming out as well as when it did come out. We have a large installed base of 6500s; it is the most successful modular switch in history. Obviously, that's something Cisco wants to continue to drive.

What other areas are investment priorities?

Virtualizing services in the branch by centralizing those services in the data center. That's a trend that's here to stay.[Application Control Engine] and applications embedded into the network infrastructure would be another area that we'll continue to drive very heavily.

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