Data Center Infrastructure

Cisco Storms the Hyperconverged Data Center

SAN DIEGO -- Cisco is planting its enormous galoshes into the emerging hyperconvergence market Tuesday, introducing servers combining compute, storage and networking into a single box, for simplified data center management.

At the Cisco Partner Summit 2016 here, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) also introduced upgrades to its flagship Nexus 9000 switches, increasing speeds and manageability.

Hyperconvergence is a kind of full-circle evolution for the commodity server market. Back in the 90s when the x86 architecture made the transition from desktop to servers, storage was separated from the server in order to improve performance. That led to the emergence of storage-area networks (SANs) and network attached storage (NAS) -- multiple servers sharing common storage resources. Hyperconvergence is part of the transition to enterprise cloud and New IP networks.

"Hyper-convergence answers the need for simplicity by converging storage and compute together," Todd Brannon, Cisco director of product marketing, tells Light Reading.

Now, federation and software networking technology permit storage to move back to individual servers within the data center, while continuing to be shared in a fabric in common by servers across the network, achieving both high performance and the simplicity of having storage, compute and networking combined, Brannon says.

Hyperconvergence has largely been the realm of startups. Among the players in the hyperconvergence market are Nutanix (which launched in 2011, with the motto, "Ban the SAN") SimpliVity and Scale Computing.

With its new HyperFlex systems, Cisco is getting into the game. It sees its advantage as the ability to extend networking policy on premises networks and into the public cloud, Brannon says.

Hyperconverged servers from any vendor can deploy in less than an hour -- with Cisco, that also includes the network, which can otherwise require weeks to configure, Brannon says.

HyperFlex is Cisco's first entry into the hyperconvergence market, although several partners deliver their own hyperconverged products built on Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) standardized data center servers, Brannon says.

Cisco introduced UCS in 2009, as a transition from the network to the enterprise data center, and has since dominated that market. Hyperconvergence is the next stage of the evolution.

Cisco developed HyperFlex in partnership with hyperconverence startup Springpath. (See Cisco Planning Virtualization Appliance – Reports.)

Pricing starts at $59,000, available now.

For more data center-related coverage and insights, check out this dedicated content channel here on Light Reading.

On the Nexus 9000: Cisco is introducing the next generation of the two-year-old high-performance switches, which provide the hardware foundation for its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) SDN architecture.

The new model increases speeds at the same price -- 25 Gbit/s and 100 Gbit/s ports in the same location as today's 10 Gbit/s and 100 Gbit/s ports.

Cisco is upgrading the Nexus 9000 to improve network visibility, by building flow tables in the switches to allow network operators to capture every flow at full line rate at every speed, Thomas Scheibe, Cisco senior director, product management, tells Light Reading.

In another upgrade, the Nexus 9000 will support the hyperconverged fabric, to identify different flows on the network and prioritize them.

And the Nexus 9000's little brother, the Nexus 3000, is getting love too -- it's upgrading to support new Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) Tomahawk chips.

The first of the new switches is shipping now, with the remainder coming in the next three months.

Cisco has 56% of the overall worldwide switch and router market, which generated revenues of $41 billion in 2015, up 3% year-over-year, according to Synergy Research Group. Most growth is coming from enterprise Ethernet switches, which represent the largest market segment, accounting for 60% of the total market, followed by service provider routers and enterprise routers, according to Synergy.

Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders talked with Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins at Mobile World Congress last month. Watch it here:

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— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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