Cisco, Juniper lead switching splash

Cisco, Juniper lead switching splash

Force10, ConSentry Networks and Enterasys also offer new data center, edge devices to better support bandwidth-heavy applications

Looking to bolster technologies that support bandwidth-heavy applications, such as virtualization, collaboration, unified communications and video, LAN switching vendors are set to roll out a flurry of new products and enhancements, highlighted by Cisco's new data center switch and Juniper's expected rollout of edge, core and data center boxes.

A supporting cast of switching vendors will unveil important upgrades, extensions and directions for their products, including Force10 and ConSentry Networks. Enterasys Networks is saving its latest product releases for next week with some 10 Gigabit Ethernet additions to its core and edge lines.

The product rollouts are dominated by advances such as high-density 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Power over Ethernet (PoE) and service orientation. Indeed, PoE was a prime factor in the record growth Ethernet switching experienced in the third quarter of 2007, according to Dell'Oro Group.

PoE, however, is not part of the Cisco launch, which is focused squarely on the data center. The company's new Nexus 7000 switch, developed under the code name DC3, features a unified switching fabric that combines Ethernet, IP, and storage capabilities.

Nexus 7000 is the first in a new line of Cisco switching products optimized for high-density 10 Gigabit Ethernet in the data center, and is perhaps Cisco's most significant product launch since the Carrier Routing System in 2004. Nexus required four years and 578 engineers to build, at a cost of US$250 million, company officials say. It incorporates 1,513 Cisco patents, either issued or pending.

"Cisco hasn't released a new switch in quite a while," says Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. "Instead of just building a bigger version of what's out there, they actually thought about what would [the virtualized] data center look like and what are the features of the switch that would have to be included to meet those needs."

The Nexus 7000 is not the eventual successor to Cisco's Catalyst 6500 enterprise campus switch, company officials stress. The Catalyst 6500 has a road map that takes it to 2012, they say.

The Nexus 7000 includes 10-slot and 18-slot chassis that deliver up to 15 terabits per second of switching capacity and support up to 512 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The system is designed for future delivery of 40Gbps and 100Gbps Ethernet as well, company officials say.

The unified fabric architecture of the Nexus 7000 is designed to provide all servers with access to all network and storage resources. Cisco says this architecture enables data center consolidation and virtualization, and eliminates the need for parallel storage and computational networks.

A unified Fibre Channel over Ethernet I/O interface is a planned future deliverable, Cisco says.

Nexus includes a new modular, Linux-based operating system called NX-OS. NX-OS melds the company's SAN OS from its SAN switching lines with its IOS routing code.

This modular design provides fault containment and automatic recovery so that processes can be remotely started, stopped and upgraded without human intervention, Cisco says.

The Nexus 7000 Series starts at US$75,000 and is planned to be generally available in the second quarter.

Cisco's router rival Juniper, meanwhile, is expected to unveil its entree into LAN switching as part of a broader enterprise strategy briefing at a splashy event Tuesday in New York. There, the company is expected to unveil various configurations of edge, core and data center switches based on a custom ASIC called Hurricane.

Juniper is also expected to announce a significant enterprise integration partnership with IBM Global Services in an effort to kick-start Juniper's broadened enterprise ambitions. IBM is currently a chip supplier to Juniper, and as Cisco's data center intentions have grown to overlap with those of IBM's, the Juniper partnership is viewed as a competitive response to Cisco's data center initiatives.

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