Cisco enhances virtual data centers

By Kevin Komiega

—Cisco today announced several additions to its portfolio of Data Center 3.0 unified fabric products and services aimed at helping customers virtualize data centers and provision applications more efficiently.

New to the lineup are software upgrades for the VFrame Data Center, Wide Area Application Services (WAAS), and Application Control Engine (ACE) platforms, as well as a set of data-center deployment and consulting services.

VFrame Data Center 1.2 software features a mix of enhancements for infrastructure provisioning in concert with Cisco's ACE platforms and VMware ESX virtual server environments.

The VFrame Data Center system links compute, networking, and storage infrastructures together as a set of virtualized services, providing a way to view all services configured at the application level to improve troubleshooting and change management. VFrame 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.

Version 1.2 of VFrame for Improved Virtualized Data Center Provisioning offers integration with Cisco ACE and VMware ESX, including the ability to virtualize servers to ACE virtual devices, and to select a server out of a utility pool and configure it end-to-end with ESX. VFrame provisions resources in real-time using policies and a rules-checking engine.

VFrame 1.2 will be available on both primary and secondary appliances with a base price of $59,995.

Cisco also announced some tweaks to its WAAS platform to support virtualized application hosting services, faster application acceleration over WANs, and video delivery for branch offices.

The WAAS 4.1 software supports network-embedded virtualization, which is a fancy way of saying customers can deploy virtual services such as Microsoft Windows Server 2008 locally at branch offices on a WAAS appliance, reducing server hardware requirements. In addition, version 4.1 provides application-specific acceleration features for Microsoft Exchange (MAPI), Web applications (HTTP), live and on-demand video (RTSP), centralized printing (Windows Print), and Unix/Linux file sharing (NFS).

WAAS 4.1 will be available in the third quarter, while WAAS Live Video Streaming (for the video-on-demand market) and WAAS Virtualization are separately licensed features with pricing starting at $2,500 per device.

The other WAAS 4.1 features included in the WAAS Enterprise License are available at no charge to WAAS Enterprise License customers with SmartNet Software and Support with Upgrades (SASU) contracts.

While the WAAS device accelerates applications over the WAN, its data-center counterpart is Cisco's ACE application switch. Version 3.1 of the ACE software, available for the ACE 4710 application switch, includes new support for 4Gbps throughput and up to 2Gbps of compression capability, doubling the device's virtualized performance.

Cisco also enhanced the ACE application switch family to leverage its virtualized load balancing and security services across unified communications, collaborative technologies, and video applications through an increased ability to understand the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP).

ACE 3.1 will be available at no charge for Cisco's SmartNet customers. The additional ACE Appliance 2Gbps-to-4Gbps throughput upgrade license is priced at $15,000.

The ACE Appliance compression license is priced at $20,000 for a 2Gbps compression license, $10,000 for a 500Mbps-to-2Gbps compression upgrade license, and $5,000 for a 1Gbps-to-2Gbps compression upgrade license.

Data Center 3.0 services
The final piece of Cisco's product parade is an array of programs built to help customers deploy Data Center 3.0 infrastructures, including the new Data Center Efficiency Assurance Program (EAP), extensions to the Data Center Assurance Program (DCAP) 4.0, and DCAP for Applications.

According to Mark Weiner, director of marketing for Cisco Data Center Solutions, the EAP is a Web-based tool that helps customers analyze data-center power use and establishes energy benchmarks across facilities and infrastructure. The EAP is used by Cisco's services team under the Data Center Efficiency Service to help customers identify the appropriate power and cooling infrastructure, while identifying steps to make the infrastructure more accessible, efficient, and sustainable.

Updates to DCAP include large-scale data-center validation, design, and implementation guides, including an enhanced service provider section containing an updated baseline architecture and new overlays for video streaming and mobility services. DCAP also now supports ACE and Cisco's MDS fabric switches, as well as Oracle 11i E-Business Suite, Microsoft Exchange 2003, Tibco Rendezvous, and active-active disaster recovery.

Cisco also extended its related DCAP for Applications program for the Application Delivery Networks portfolio by offering tested delivery solutions for Oracle 12i E-Business Suite and Microsoft's Office Communications Server (OCS).

This article was originally published on June 24, 2008