In 2002, Cisco embarked on a data center strategy that involved providing local area network switches, network storage, and load balancers -- all the components necessary to for connectivity services in a data center.
This week, Cisco unveiled a more ambitious strategy at its Networkers user conference in Anaheim, Calif. The networking giant wants to become the No. 1 infrastructure provider for data centers. Cisco envisions the network being at the forefront of a data center's infrastructure, enabling any application, any content, in any location. It also sees virtualization as a key component of data center networks.
"We weren't perceived as a data center company and because people have a server-centric view when they think of data centers. But we'll be changing that perception," said Doug Gourlay, senior manager of product marketing at Cisco, in an interview.
Cisco rolled out the first set of products that deliver on its vision.
VFrame Data Center is an orchestration tool that lets businesses create a virtualized a services infrastructure from a pool of computing, storage, and network resources. The tool treats the network as a unified fabric that centralizes everything; for example, the tool allows a standby server to be added to the network at any time to handle heavy traffic. Services on the network can be configured at the application level to make troubleshooting and changing management a more efficient process.
VFrame uses open APIs and integrates with third-party management applications, as well as server and storage virtualization offerings. Cisco said its partners include EMC for information management and storage; IBM for delivery and support; Hewlett-Packard for storage networking, LAN switching, and blade switching; and VMware for optimization of security on virtual machines.
Cisco also introduced Storage Media Encryption, which encrypts data in the network fabric and allows data to be stored securely on tapes and disks. Even if a disk is lost or stolen, it cannot be decrypted unless it's plugged into a designated network, said Jayshree Ullal, senior VP of Cisco's data center, switching, and security group.
Other products include new software and switches designed to accelerate and manage applications in data centers.
To help businesses design, implement, and operate a data center network infrastructure, Cisco launched its Data Center Assurance testing program.
Over the next 24 months, Cisco will continue rolling out new products and services. Gourlay said, "More people today are measuring data centers in megawatts. People are caring about efficiency and how much power servers in data centers use. We have a set of technologies that can improve efficiencies in the data center."