Cisco says FabricPath -- its data-center fabric that uses the Trill protocol and operates on Layers 2 and 3 -- can support 12,288 10Gbit/s server connections in a one-hop network, as opposed to 6,144 for QFabric. In virtual terms, Cisco is saying its fabric looks like a single big switch that's twice as big as QFabric's single big switch.
The numbers are being backed up by new products Cisco is announcing Tuesday: The Fabric2 module for the Nexus 7000 enables theoretical density of 550Gbit/s per slot, and new line cards, called the F2 series, put 48 ports of 10Gbit/s Ethernet onto one slot.
FabricPath is being extended to the Nexus 5500. The 5000 line was developed by startup Nuova and therefore hasn't shared all features with the 7000s.
It's all part of a crowd of data-center announcements Cisco is rolling out on Tuesday:
- Nexus 7009: A switch similar to the Nexus 7010 but built for side-to-side airflow, rather than front-to-back.
- The Nexus 3016, with 16 ports of 40Gbit/s Ethernet, and the Nexus 3048, with 48 ports of Gigabit Ethernet.
- The Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) 1000V, a firewall meant to go with the Nexus 1000V switch.
Why this matters
Naturally, Cisco wants to own the data-center fabric market, so it's coming out swinging against QFabric, which got a lot of attention last year. Don't forget, too, that rivals including Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) see Cisco's shift to Nexus switches as a chance to step in and grab customers.
On the PR side, Juniper has set up a lot of grand expectations behind QFabric, so it's logical for Cisco to counter with even grander expectations. (Light Reading has pinged Juniper for a response, but the company announces earnings Tuesday, so we'll see if they're game to answer.)
The "12,288" number might be pretty, but expect Cisco's marketing to lean heavily on the virtal machine Fabric Extender (VM-FEX) technology, which virtualizes the conections between network interface cards (NICs) and servers. The technology reaches down to individual virtual machines, something Cisco claims is unique.
Further reading on fabrics:
- Cisco Extends Fabric to HP
- Juniper's QFabric Is Ready
- Brocade Develops a Cloud Complex
- Cisco Counters Fabric Challengers
- How Q-ute! Juniper's QFabric Rethinks the Data Center
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading