Cisco unites virtual resources

By Kevin Komiega

Cisco recently introduced a slew of new products for managing virtualized server and storage resources, including new fabric switches, encryption features, a data migration tool, and VFrame Data Center-an appliance that automatically configures and provisions shared pools of virtualized server, storage, and network resources.

The VFrame Data Center system links compute, networking, and storage infrastructures together as a set of virtualized services, providing a way to view all the services configured at the application level to improve troubleshooting and change management, according to Bill Erdman, director of marketing in Cisco’s server virtualization unit. “VFrame ties together products across an organization to provide better ways to economize data centers by reducing application deployment times and improving overall resource utilization,” says Erdman.

VFrame DC ships on an x86 appliance with support for Fibre Channel and Ethernet. One of the core features of the appliance is its ability to boot up to 500 servers from SAN or NAS storage. Boot images reside on the networked storage resources, enabling dynamic server provisioning.

“You can move servers at will to various boot LUNs. They are no longer limited by what they hold locally,” says Erdman.

VFrame DC includes a policy engine for automating resource changes in response to infrastructure outages and performance changes. Additionally, changes can be controlled by external monitoring systems via integration with the VFrame DC Web services API.

The VFrame DC, with licenses for 25 servers, is priced from $59,995. An appliance with the full 500-server license package costs approximately $300,000. Erdman says Cisco will scale the appliance incrementally over time to support larger environments and will eventually roll out a management device that sits on top of VFrame deployments to manage policy changes.

VFrame is just one of the new products Cisco launched under its Data Center 3.0 initiative. The company’s so-called “vision for next-generation data centers,” Data Center 3.0 entails real-time, dynamic management of infrastructure services from shared pools of virtualized server, storage, and network resources, while optimizing application performance and service levels.

Data movement and encryption

Keeping with its theme of moving data and resources on-the-fly, the company also launched the Data Mobility Manager (DMM) fabric-based data migration feature. DMM transfers block data across heterogeneous storage volumes and across distances, whether the host is online or offline.

Rajeev Bhardwaj, director of marketing for storage networking in Cisco’s data-center business unit, says data migration is the key to enabling virtual environments based on blade servers and networked storage.

Cisco is tackling network-based encryption with the availability of Storage Media Encryption (SME) for Cisco-based SAN fabrics. Bhardwaj says SME enables the management of data encryption across multiple types of heterogeneous SAN-attached storage devices, including disk arrays, tape devices, and virtual tape libraries (VTLs). He claims that encrypting data in the fabric helps companies secure data on storage devices that lack native encryption capabilities.

Cisco also introduced a trio of new switching products.

The MDS 9134 multi-layer fabric switch provides support for up to 32 4-, 2-, and 1Gbps Fibre Channel ports and two fixed 10Gbps Fibre Channel ports in a 1U form factor. The base 9134 switch has 24 active ports, and users can choose to activate an additional eight ports or two more 10Gbps ports using the port license. The new switch also provides VSANs, PortChannels, quality of service (QoS), FICON support, and security.

The MDS 18/4 Multiservice Module provides 18 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports and four Gigabit Ethernet IP storage services ports.

The module can reside in MDS 9500 series directors or 9200 series fabric switches, and supports VSANs, inter-VSAN routing (IVR), remote SAN extension with Fibre Channel over IP, integrated Storage Media Encryption (SME) as a distributed fabric service, FICON services, and iSCSI connectivity.

The MDS 9222i Multiservice Modular Switch offers the same features as the MDS 18/4, but is designed as a stand-alone product for departmental and remote branch office SANs.

Beefing up security

In addition to the data center, Cisco is extending its reach into the branch- office market with a new software release for its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) platform.

WAAS is an application acceleration and WAN optimization solution that aids in the consolidation of branch office servers and storage into centrally managed data centers, while preserving LAN-like performance for remote users.

According to Mark Weiner, Cisco’s director of marketing for application delivery, the software release introduces a “trusted WAN optimization solution” by offering secure WAN acceleration and application performance management. The software upgrade is free to existing WAAS customers with a maintenance contract and offers a new feature for encrypting data stored on WAAS devices.

The software also provides integration with NetQoS application monitoring products for end-to-end monitoring and acceleration of application traffic.

This article was originally published on September 01, 2007