Cisco unwraps flash storage line, more severs for UCS

Ever since flash hard drives began to be commercially viable, enterprises have hungered for their speed to power certain applications.

Cisco Systems Inc. took the hint and last fall bought a New Jersey company called WhipTail Technologies, which makes a solid-state storage array and operating system, for integration into its Unified Computing System (UCS) server/storage/networking platform.

On Thursday the company unveiled where it’s taking the WhipTail products

Dubbed UCS Invicta, it includes

–a new 2U-sized Invicta Appliance, built on a Cisco C-series rack server, with up to 64 TB of effective storage;

–the Invicta Scaling System array, WhipTail’s first product, that can hold up to 30 Appliances and includes with a silicon router.

Each array can hold up to 2 petabytes of data.

At the same time Cisco also announced new switches and modules for its Nexus switch line for UCS infrastructures and an update to its UCS Director converged infrastructure management software.

The goal of Invicta’s flash arrays is to help customers “attack data-intensive workloads,” said Todd Brannon, who leads product marketing for the UCS line, “and particularly being able to attack the problem of being able to bring this resource to support real-time analytics.”

Brannon said the “primary prize” of the WhipTail acquisition was the operating system, which in an Appliance allows write throughput of 250,000 IOPs on read side, but, more significantly and almost equal read throughput of 220,000 IOPs.

The array has throughput of up to 4 million IOPs. A six node system could swallow 96 Blu-Ray movies in 60 seconds, Brannon said.

Read/write parity is important for customers on high performance applications, Brannon. said.

“Bringing these pools of flash (storage) into UCS gets customers into a mode where they can do tuning-free performance improvements,” he added. Brannon admitted that administrators might not be able to get the full theoretical performance potential, but they will know that if they add greater loads to applications they can sustain consistent level of response.

The Invicta operating system comes in two flavours: One tuned for performance, the other for data reduction (for VDI and email).

The one thing about flash storage is it isn’t inexpensive. Invicta Appliances list starting at US$63,300.

Invicta storage pools can be managed by the just released version 4.1 of UCS Director, which orchestrates and automates infrastructure changes. The new storage system is an extension of Cisco’s data centre strategy, said Zeus Kerravala, principal of ZK Research.

“What they’ve been addressing in UCS until now is the convergence of servers and networking. With the integration of WhipTail products they’ve added storage, so Cisco customers can move storage around along with network policies. And it’s all automated”

Director controls severs from Cisco, Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, as well as switches from Cisco and Brocade Communications Systems.

It makes the automatic provisioning of network elements easier by having a library of pre-defined workflows that can be dropped onto a schematic. The new version of Director adds a software development kit that makes an API available so Cisco [Nasdaq: CSCO] partners and other vendors can write workflows to their devices.

“Not only can you integrate support for other devices, you can also integrate Director with other management systems,” said Kenneth Horner, Cisco’s director of global sales for data centre solutions.

Director can now manage over 50,000 virtual machines, he added.

For the Nexus server line there are several new models and modules.

–The top of the line 7700 series gets a small 9RU-sized 7706, with 21 TB of capacity and 192 ports 1 or 10G ports. Cisco says it’s for smaller data centres, aggregation or data centre interconnects;

–Also for the 7700 series is an F3 10GbE module, joining the existing 40 and 100 GbE modules;

–For the Nexus 6000 series there’s a new 20-port module that supports unified ports, which can dynamically offer Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel over Ethernet or Ethernet;

–The new 5600 series is a higher performance version of the existing 5500. It offers 128 10G ports and support for VXLAN as well as support for unified ports;

–The 3000 series gets the 3172TQ, a copper-based switch that supports VXLAN and can be used on rack tops.

–Finally, for the virtual Nexus 1000V switch support has been added for Linux-based KVN hypervisors.




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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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