Cisco Boosts Application Availability

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Cisco Systems is pushing virtualization deeper into its Data Center 3.0 portfolio, adding both local and wide-area technologies aimed at improving application availability across the enterprise.


The company announced three new software releases and a set of related services that promise to produce a more efficient networking platform that enhances real-time collaboration even while cutting energy costs.


First up is the 3.1 software for the ACE (Application Control Engine) 4710 switch. It bumps throughput to 4 Gbps, with up to 2 Gbps of compression plus multimedia capabilities thrown in for good measure. The ACE hardware also sports a new module that brings Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) to better balance loads and enhance security across communications, collaboration and video applications.


The new ACE capabilities coincide with software for the VFrame platform that provides near-real-time provisioning of VMware ESX servers onto the ACE device, providing a utility pool of application servers for greater flexibility in distributing applications according to changing business needs.


The third piece of the puzzle is the 4.1 release of the Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) appliance, aimed at extending these new ACE/Vframe application capabilities to remote sites and branch offices. The new system supports network-embedded virtualization to enable local deployment of entire platforms such as Windows Server 2008, as well as application-specific acceleration for things like Web applications, live and on-demand video and file sharing.


Rounding out the program is a set of professional programs and services to help customers manage the inevitable customizations that go along with major virtualization overhauls.


Marcus Phipps, marketing manager for Cisco Data Center Solutions, says the new systems are designed to fulfill the ongoing need to boost network virtualization to meet the needs of newly virtualized server and storage platforms. He said:

A lot of complexity has been taken out of the server and placed onto the network. When you separate the physical resources from the logical, you change the process of mapping applications to that environment. Once you go to a unified fabric, it becomes a problem to integrate software onto those virtual LANs and wide-area LANs.

By bumping up the capabilities of the ACE system, you not only get a more robust environment in which to deliver applications to users, but you get smoother failover capabilities and a greater ability to scale resources to meet fluctuating data loads.


Phipps added that this is by no means the finishing touch on the Data Center 3.0 strategy, now nearing its first birthday. If anything, these tools represent only one component of an evolving platform that is likely to encompass everything from server and storage connectivity, cloud services, fabric technology and a broad range of emerging technologies.


Cisco is still banking heavily on Ethernet to carry most of these services, which is already playing catch-up with Infiniband in terms of throughput, and is likely to fall further behind over the next few years. But by bringing all data center networking under one roof, Cisco at least offers the promise of an integrated framework capable of propelling today's enterprise into the 21st century with only a modicum of integration hassles.