The data centre is virtual: Cisco

ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Cisco Systems Corp. threw the industry a curve ball Tuesday at the Networkers at Cisco Live conference. While the industry was looking to the San Jose, Calif.-based company to announce more elements to its unified communications strategy in response to Microsoft’s salvo into the market, instead Cisco told more than 10,000 technical implementers about its vision for the data centre of the future.

Called Data Center 3.0, to be delivered over the next 24 months, contains new products led by the VFrame line networking and storage infrastructures. VFrame offers policy-based engines for automating resource changes and a data centre Web services application programming interface.

Another integral part of Data Center 3.0 is Wide Area Application Services or “Trusted” WAN optimization software.

Jayshree Ullal, senior vice-president of the switching and security technology group for Cisco, said her company’s journey into the data centre did not happen overnight.

IT is transforming from a cost centre to a strategic asset in a highly virtualized infrastructure. Data Center 3.0 intends to bring real time orchestration of infrastructure services for customers comprising virtual servers, storage networking resources and collaboration application services, she said.

“Many times we think of virtualization as virtual machines, but mapping is important. At the heart of this is a unified fabric that brings together the best of Ethernet, storage, fibre channel and infiniband.”

Cisco’s main challenges in the data centre space are business empowerment and operational limitations. Ullal said response times at the data centre need to be improved dramatically if customers want to reach productivity goals. Furthermore, IT operations are limited by power consumption.

Armin Heinlein, the head of IT competence centre NORAM and vice-president of Panalpina of Morristown, N.J., was one Cisco customer who faced these two challenges.

Panalpina has six major data centres, one of which is situated in Toronto, and two other minor data centres. The company wanted to bring them all together to hopefully work faster.

Heinlein said that every time a new application was introduced to the company it meant a new server had to be installed, and with that there needs to be a fall back system. That in turn brought on more switching and routing equipment.

“We needed to do something to bring it together with server virtualization and reduce the cost. WAAS helped me do some cost reduction and improve service,” Heinlein said.

WAAS software enables IT teams to deploy WAN optimization across the environment, while preserving branch security. It also provides tight integration with NetQoS application monitoring products.

Panalpina saved approximately $1 million, increased its bandwidth and moved out between 20 to 30 per cent of its physical servers, Heinlein said.

Data Center 3.0 also includes Cisco application control engine (ACE) XML gateway software, MDS 18/4 multi-service module, and 9222i multi-service modular switch, 9134 multi-layer fabric switch, Data Mobility Manager, storage media encryption, N-port Virtualizer, Smart Call Home, a data center assurance program and two channel partner specializations.

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