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Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future

Craig Matsumoto
1/28/2008

In possibly its biggest product launch in four years, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is unveiling its long-awaited follow-up to the Catalyst line of switches today, combining Ethernet and storage networking with an eye toward data center trends such as virtualization and faster switching speeds.

The ambitious new platform, named Nexus, is a stab at high-end Ethernet players such as Force10 Networks Inc. , Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), and Woven Systems Inc. Cisco says it will outdo them, as Nexus will eventually reach 15 Tbit/s in switching density -- 7.5 Tbit/s each for the ingress and egress paths -- and 512 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports per system.

Nexus will also incorporate storage switching, taking a bit of a swipe at Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) and its Data Center Fabric strategy. (See Brocade Unveils Backbone Switch and Brocade Outlines Server/Storage Fabric.)

But the storage capabilities are yet to come: Cisco is basing its platform on Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCOE), which won't be added to Nexus until that standard is complete. (See Storage Must Wait for Cisco's Data Center Vision .)

Perhaps more important, Nexus is aimed at the trend of virtualization in the data center, and it packs features to accommodate the kind of reliability that storage networking needs.

Nexus's arrival doesn't mean Catalyst and the storage-switching MDS line are doomed. Cisco says it has plans for all three in "Data Center 3.0," a phrase the company has been tossing around since August.

Big deal
Even though customers have to wait for FCOE and other important features -- a lossless version of Ethernet being standardized for data centers, for instance -- the impact of Cisco's new switch shouldn't be underestimated, analysts say.

"It's their biggest announcement since CRS-1," says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with Yankee Group Research Inc. (See Cisco Unveils the HFR.)

Nexus is big enough to at least temporarily stymie the competition, says analyst Nick Lippis of Lippis Enterprises.

"Cisco made a huge commitment here," he says. "Without Nexus, Force10 would have had a good IPO story this year. Now, investment bankers will pause."

The announcement comes one day before a Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) press and analyst event in New York City, where that company is expected to unveil its own big-deal data center switch. (See Cisco, Juniper Ready Data Center Assault.)

When queried about this, Cisco adopts a nonchalant approach. "Interesting timing, isn't it?" says Deepak Munjal, marketing manager for Cisco's data center team. (A Cisco spokeswoman says the product had been planned for a January 29 release, but was pushed up by one day.)

Yet another OS
As with its CRS-1 router, Cisco is eager to show how big an effort Nexus has been. The platform took four years and $250 million to develop, requiring contributions from more than 500 engineers. Its innards include some technology from Cisco's MDS line of storage gear, and even some IP routing knowhow from Procket Networks, the core-routing startup Cisco acquired in 2004. (See Cisco to Pay $89M for Procket Assets.)

"No other company really has the resources and the intellectual property in the networking and storage spaces to match that," Lippis says of Cisco's effort.

Nexus also sports a new operating system, something Cisco says the team insisted on from the beginning. Yes, that means having yet another operating system to support, in addition to the different trains of the Internetwork Operating System (IOS) out there, the SAN-OS that runs the MDS gear, and the modular IOS-XR.

"We realized we're making a tradeoff here, but the reality is, when you look at data center requirements like lossless Ethernet, all of those necessitated more of a new design," Munjal says.

It had to be done, Kerravala says. "All new OSs take time to mature, but that probably had to happen to bring the new functionality in."

NX-OS, as the operating system is called, does borrow from IOS and SAN-OS, and it's based on a modular architecture like Cisco's IOS XR.

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gottappp
gottappp
12/5/2012 | 3:49:17 PM
re: Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future
Yes, it is interesting timing. Is this just a slideware announcement to distract from Juniper's expected launch (which traditionally is much closer to actual ship dates than Cisco's announcements). When does Nexus ship? Is the higher density product "within 6 months" an announcement or a shipping product?
Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin
12/5/2012 | 3:49:16 PM
re: Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future
I'd imagine they wanted to announce this later (but Cisco does say for the record that it was a Jan. 29 plan) ...

Nexus ships in the second quarter, so the basic box is pretty close. "Within 6 months" is the shipping target for the higher density version.

I think the box gets more interesting when FCOE comes online, so that's going to be a wait. I guess the other features, like high availability, could be of help immediately.
Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin
12/5/2012 | 3:49:16 PM
re: Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future
Anybody got thoughts on Data Center 3.0? Big revolution, or just a lot of new marketspeak?
gottappp
gottappp
12/5/2012 | 3:49:15 PM
re: Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future
Hmm, it will be interesting to see Juniper's schedule. This announcement timing seems a bit deliberate, so I would tend to be skeptical on the real ship dates. Sure, they planned the 29th as their announcement date - very convenient. Timing is obviously set to derail Juniper's announcement, and availability dates would conceivably be set to do the same. Even the announced bandwidths and switching capacity should be looked at carefully as it may well be a bit fluffed to derail Juniper (how exactly would you use "230Gbps" of bandwith in a slot? - 11.5 X10GE, 1.15 X100GE, or 5.75 X 40GE? Likely just marketing numbers to make the box "bigger".

What's Cisco's track record between announcements and announced ship dates, and true viability of the shipping product? Will the NX-OS and NEXUS platform be any more network ready than CRS/IOS-XR was when it was initially released? How many operating systems does that make now?

Will Juniper's product introduce a new OS, or will it be JUNOS-based? What is Juniper's track record with JUNOS-based products shipping on announced dates, and viability of the OS and product when released? MX is JUNOS-based,and seems to have done well in its first year based on last week's earnings announcement. This would tend to confirm Juniper's ability to ship a viable product day 1. Should we expect the same from Juniper's expected product?

tsat
tsat
12/5/2012 | 3:49:13 PM
re: Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future

Congrats to Cisco engineers, looks like an impressive chunk of hardware with that kind of port density and scalability.

Might be a rough road for the smaller Ethernet hardware vendors in the future.

Can't quite tell from the article... does this thing multi-chassis?

-tsat
gottappp
gottappp
12/5/2012 | 3:49:13 PM
re: Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future
"(how exactly would you use "230Gbps" of bandwith in a slot? - 11.5 X10GE, 1.15 X100GE, or 5.75 X 40GE?"

That should be 2.875X40GE. My marketing math skills are not so good...
opticalwatcher
opticalwatcher
12/5/2012 | 3:49:12 PM
re: Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future
One of the big efforts of the CRS was the new modular version of the IOS operating system, IOS-XR, based on the QNX kernel.

Now there is NX-OS. Just curious--what was wrong with IOS-XR? It supposedly has everything a modern operating system

Did the Procket sw group bring with it some useful knowledge? Is NX-OS based on LynxOS like Procket's was? (LyNX-OS)?
Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin
12/5/2012 | 3:49:12 PM
re: Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future
(how exactly would you use "230Gbps" of bandwith in a slot? - 11.5 X10GE, 1.15 X100GE, or 5.75 X 40GE?"
(Or whatever the math turns out to be.) :)

Usually a vendor lets you overprovision each slot. So if there's 230 Gbit/s available, you might load up a slot with, say, 32x10GE.
Honestly
Honestly
12/5/2012 | 3:49:10 PM
re: Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future
CSCO marketing loves to invent the new era, the BFR, the bla bla bla, and Nick Lippis takes their money to say, "This will Stymie the competition". OK, Juniper got killed by better PR strategy, but they lost that when Chrisitne Heckart left. Stay tuned for tomorrows story on Junipers new product line that will at very least compete, and most like be better than this. Bottom line, there are companies already at this scale winning huge deals with companies like IBM. Research Argonne National labs re Bluegene P so you can see for yourselves.

FYI, what does this beast cost, too much, I bet
truthbob
truthbob
12/5/2012 | 3:49:10 PM
re: Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future
>> "(how exactly would you use "230Gbps" of
>> bandwith in a slot? - 11.5 X10GE, 1.15 X100GE,
>> or 5.75 X 40GE?"
>
> That should be 2.875X40GE. My marketing math
> skills are not so good...

You are still out on a few counts:

1. That 230 Gbps is per direction. i.e. 230+230 not 230 half duplex. It isn't marketing math.
2. It is data-link-layer capacity - you are including math comparing physical-link (including encoding) with data-link (no encoding).

Care to try again also not including the Inter Frame Gap?
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