Cisco Unveils Next-Generation Data Center Architecture

Mike Vizard

Cisco today moved to significantly reduce the complexity of managing servers and networks in the data center with the launch of a new Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA) that unifies the management of Layer 2 switches and Layer 3 routing in the data center.

Unveiled at the Cisco Live! 2013 conference, DFA is at the center of what Cisco is calling an Application-Centric Infrastructure initiative that combines a more advanced unified network fabric with significantly faster Nexus 7700 switches.

According to David Yen, Cisco senior vice president and general manager for the Cisco Data Center Technology Group, it is specifically designed to make sure that any node on the network is no more than two hops away from a Cisco switch.

Described as a leaf and spine architecture, Yen says that rather than relying on a pure software overlay to unify the management of the data center, Cisco is taking advantage of software and ASIC processor technology to dramatically reduce the complexity associated with managing the data center.

As part of that effort, Cisco plans to leverage the software-defined networking (SDN) it recently gained via the recent acquisition of Insieme to provide the framework through which organizations will invoke the onePK application programming interfaces that promise to make Cisco networks and servers easier to manage.

The Nexus 7700 switches, meanwhile, provide the raw 83 Tbps throughput required to support the new Cisco architecture running at scale.

While there’s no doubt that Cisco is making it easier to converge the management of function across the data center, the bet Cisco is making is that customers will want to tightly align their data centers to a Cisco architecture built largely around proprietary ASICs versus a more open approach the relies on higher-level management software to mask the complexity of the individual components.

It’s too early to say with certainty how aggressively customers will want to embrace that notion. But the one thing that is for certain is that Cisco is squarely focused on what is rapidly becoming a top of mind issue for any IT organization dealing with scale in the data center.

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