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Cisco switch consolidates functions in the data center

Nexus 5000 consolidates storage, networking and virtualization, reduces costs

April 8, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Cisco Systems Inc. today announced the Nexus 5000 series of server access switches, which are designed to consolidate storage, networking and virtualization functions in data centers.

The switch unifies Fibre Channel over Ethernet with data center Ethernet and virtualization capabilities, which should reduce data center cabling and cooling costs by 30% to 50%, as well as cut the need for staff oversight, Cisco officials said via a webcast from the Cisco Partner Summit in Honolulu.

The first switch in the new series, the Nexus 5020, will be available in May at a cost of $900 per port. The switch starts with a base configuration of 40 ports, each running 10 Gigabit Ethernet. That can be expanded to 56 ports with the insertion of two out of three available modules, Dante Malagrino, Cisco's director of data center product marketing, said in a separate interview. One of the three other modules comes with eight Fibre Channel ports.

Cisco said it is working with a long list of partners, including Dell Inc., EMC Corp., VMware Inc. and Intel Corp., which are providing a variety of products that will integrate virtualization technology, storage software or even cable connectors with the Nexus 5000 switches.

Malagrino said that storage software licenses will be sold separately; pricing was unavailable.

In addition to reducing the total footprint of devices in the data center, thereby lowering cabling and cooling costs, Malagrino said IT managers will be able to oversee data center operations using existing management tools, including Cisco's traditional IOS management software or its newer Data Center Network Manager product, as well as its Fabric Manager storage management tool.

Cisco has been announcing new products to integrate functions with data center infrastructure for a year. As part of that effort, it announced the Cisco Nexus 7000 in January. The new Nexus 5000 switches will interoperate with the Nexus 7000 and the Cisco Catalyst 6500. In addition, the Nexus 5000 can connect to storage-area network devices in the Cisco MDS 9000 series.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research Inc., said the Nexus 5000 is the "first product that actually addresses the ... convergence of networks and computing." The switching series will separate Cisco from other networking vendors, he added.

"I've been waiting for other data center network vendors to articulate a strategy like this, and the only other one that has begun to do that is [Brocade Communications Systems Inc.]," he said, noting that Foundry Networks Inc. and Juniper Networks Inc. should adopt similar strategies.

The Nexus 5000 Series came out of a collaboration between Cisco and Nuova Systems. Cisco currently owns 80% of Nuova, and it has said it plans to acquire the remaining 20% of the San Jose-based company by the end of June. The networking giant has invested $70 million in Nuova, Cisco officials said.

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