Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) today began offering new hardware and software features and products for the NX-OS operating system that, when combined, bring the scalability and performance of layer 3 networks to the layer 2 world.

The first new product is FabricPath, a licensable software feature for the NX-OS operating system. The software works in conjunction with a new line card for the Cisco Nexus 7000 Switch – the Nexus 7000 F-Series I/O module.

The I/O module delivers up to 32 ports of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) for a maximum of 320Gbps of switching capacity. The module supports the Data Center Bridging (DCB) and Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) protocol standards, with Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) to be enabled “in the near future” through a software upgrade.

Cisco is trying to get out ahead of the TRILL curve with FabricPath. The emerging protocol, which is in the process of being ratified as a standard by the IETF, is designed to replace the spanning-tree protocol.

Cisco refers to FabricPath as a “Cisco innovation of the TRILL protocol” that addresses the challenges posed by dynamic data centers with virtualization and cloud computing.

“With spanning-tree you have multiple links which are blocked and a high level of oversubscription. With FabricPath you can build a scalable, flat, non-blocking network with two layers and no oversubscription with a 16X improvement in bandwidth performance,” says Nikhil Kelshikar, product marketing manager for Cisco Nexus 7000 Solutions.

Brocade, Cisco’s chief competitor in the battle to become the network fabric provider of the future, made its TRILL play earlier this month when the company introduced Brocade Virtual Cluster Switching (VCS), a software technology that collapses the access and aggregation layers of the network to create a masterless and distributed control plane.

Brocade VCS continuously synchronizes state, status and configuration information between nodes to enable converged fabrics to be self-forming, auto-healing and self-configuring – think VM metadata, network and storage policies (see “Brocade tries to One up Cisco in virtual data centers”).

Cisco claims FabricPath was authored by some of the people working on the TRILL standard and, once TRILL is ratified, Cisco will support it on the Nexus platform

A single chassis license for FabricPath costs $25,000, and the F-Series I/O modules cost $35,000 each. Both products are scheduled to be available in the third quarter of this year.

Current Nexus 7000 users can take advantage of FabricPath by slotting the F-series I/O module into their existing switches, but for those who want to buy a pre-configured system Cisco is offering the Cisco FabricPath Switching System (FSS).

The FabricPath Switching System is an integrated hardware and software system that delivers the FabricPath functionality to build massively scalable domains.

The entry point for the FabricPath Switching System is a configuration of six Nexus 7000 switches, each with eight F-Series modules, and includes the FabricPath license for a price of approximately $2.4 million.

Kelshikar says the entry-level configuration of the FSS supplies 10 Terabits of bandwidth and can scale to 20 Terabits by adding additional line cards.

WAAS Extensions

Cisco also debuted version 4.2 of its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) software for accelerating application traffic over the WAN. WAAS can now be deployed in a branch office as an on-demand service direct from certain models of the Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR) G2.

WAAS 4.2 also provides support for Windows-server-on-WAAS (WoW), with fast access to data center and cloud applications, and locally-hosted Windows services.

Cisco WAAS 4.2 software for the ISR G2 starts at $2,500 and is available now.

New Catalyst switch

In addition, Cisco introduced a new member of the Catalyst 4000 Series of switches in the form of the Catalyst 4948E Switch with support for wire-speed IPv6, in addition to auto-provisioning and call-home features.

The Cisco Catalyst 4948E is available now and is priced from $10,995.

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