Cisco’s New Networking Nexus

For more than 20 years, Cisco’s Catalyst switching platform has been the cornerstone of the company’s networking dominance. Now, it’s unveiling a new switching platform, the Nexus 7000, that will serve the next generation of data center needs.

The Nexus 7000 offers massive scalability, a new operating system, a new management interface and the first inclusion of Cisco’s Trusted Security
(TrustSec) architecture.

The scale of the Nexus 7000 is daunting to say the least. At the top end one Nexus 7000 chassis can support up to 512 10-gigabit-per-second (Gbps) Ethernet connections, providing a whopping 15 terabits per second of switching capacity.

“People have been waiting for this platform for a while — it’s the center of our Data Center 3.0 architecture,” Bill Lulofs, a data center marketing manager at Cisco, told

“We’ve spent a lot of money in research and development over the last few years with 1,500 patents around the technologies associated with it,” he added. “Nexus is a new name for a new family of unified fabric and unified I/O in the data center.”

The Nexus 7000 is powered by the new Cisco NX-OS operating system, which includes elements of Cisco’s IOS and SAN-OS operating systems. IOS currently is Cisco’s core operating system for switches and routers. while SAN-OS is used within Cisco’s SAN switching portfolio.

With NX-OS in the Nexus 7000, Cisco plans on building out unified fabric architecture for delivery of all types of traffic, including traditional Ethernet as well as Fibre Channel storage traffic.

Lulofs noted that the Nexus 7000 will support the emerging Fibre Channel Over Ethernet (FCoE) standard moving forward. FCoE is not yet finalized, but Lulofs said he expect the first FCoE deployments to come in 2009.

Not just about scale and unified fabric, the Nexus 7000 also offers improvement of the switching platform’s performance. Among the key enhancements in the Nexus 7000 is a feature called “stateful process restart,” which allows the Nexus 7000 to automatically route around outages whether or not it intentional or accidental.

In addition, Cisco has chosen the Nexus 7000 to be the first device within its portfolio to fully support the new TrustSec security initiative. With TrustSec a network can manage policy and identity across both applications and the network itself.

In terms of network access control (NAC), Lulofs noted that the Nexus 7000 will support NAC on day one. He explained that the switching platform has the largest control plane in the industry and can scale to handle the demand of NAC.

With the Nexus 7000, Cisco is not slamming the door shut on its industry-dominating Catalyst switch portfolio. Rather, Lulofs noted that the Catalyst is a 1 GbE optimized switching platform that can scale to 10 GbE, whereas the Nexus 7000 is a 10 GbE optimized switching platform that can scale to 40 GbE and 100 GbE when available.

“We’re going to run into some high-end limits on the Catalyst 6500, though you could put 40 GbE on it probably,” Lulofs said.

“But when we talk about going to 15 TB, we will have cards that will need multi 40 GbE capability, he added. “As we go forward I would not count on the Catalyst 6500 as being the long term high density 40 GbE and 100 GbE platforms”

While the Nexus 7000 is an Ethernet-focused platform, Lulofs noted that Cisco still has demand for InfiniBand for ultralow latency requirements from customers.

That said, for many, Ethernet is the fabric that Cisco is choosing as the unifying fabric for the Nexus.

“As we go forward, we think that Ethernet in the core for I/O and transport flexibility, and I/O consolidation makes this unified fabric platform the right spot to put it in,” Lulofs said.

Cisco is pricing that Nexus 7000 series at around $75,000 to start with general availability expected later this year.

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