Switching to a Consolidated Network


While long-term planners are focused on the cloud and other esoteric developments in the pipeline, there are still a lot of near-term concerns facing the data center.


One of them is network consolidation. Just as it makes no sense to provision and maintain multiple servers and storage racks if you don't really need them, sitting on multiple, redundant network infrastructures ends up costing you money and enterprise productivity. That's why it's good to see a new generation of switching technologies that are putting consolidation front and center.


Cisco Systems took another step toward its consolidated Data Center 3.0 strategy with a new set of Nexus switches built around the NX-OS operating system and the Data Center Network Manager platform. The line includes the 18-slot Nexus 7018, capable of supporting up to 768 1 GbE ports and 512 10 GbE ports, twice the capacity of the earlier 7010 model. Also new is the Nexus 5010, a single-rack, 28-port unit that supports 10 GbE, FCoE and FC to unify LAN, SAN and cluster traffic onto one fabric. For the edge, the line includes the Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extender that can support a whopping, 2,496 gigabit Ethernet routers while maintaining only one management point on the network.


Cisco also bolstered the Catalyst switch with a new capability that allows it to serve as a virtual service node within the Nexus environment to both secure and accelerate application delivery.


Brocade is also on the field, with a more modular version of the DCX Backbone switch. The DCX-4S is only about half the size of the original DCX switch, but offers a consolidated fabric platform for midsize companies that lack the infrastructure to support the larger switches. The DCX-4S offers 192 ports at 8 Gbps and is outfitted with Brocade Fabric OS 6.2 that has a new Virtual Fabrics feature that provides partitioning of physical SANs into logical fabrics to better support consolidated virtual server and storage environments. The device supports Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) and FCoE.


Brocade is supplementing its switch technology with a new Network Monitoring Service (NMS) designed to provide real-time data on network health and efficiency in order to improve availability and flexibility. The service also includes a Business Intelligence module designed to help with planning and resource use. The technology originally come from Computer Network Technology, which had already been absorbed by McData when Brocade bought the company in 2005.


And as I mentioned in yesterday's post on HP's new ONE program, the company has come out with a range of new ProCurve 6600 switches. The line is based on the company's ProVision ASIC chipset and range in size from the 24-port 1G models 6600-24G and 6600-24G-4XG to the 48-port 1G 6600-48G and 6600-48G-4XG, and is topped off by the 24-port 10G 6600-24XG. The switches operate with the same Data Center Connection Manager as the earlier 5400 and 8200 switches, designed for multivendor server and network environments under one management fold.


Upgrading switching and routing systems may not be the most exciting item on the IT architect's dance card, but it does lay the groundwork for all the advanced technologies coming down the pike. The right investments can pay off almost immediately if they are leveraged toward reducing unnecessary network redunancy and fostering a faster, smoother data flow.