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NetApp snuggles up to Cisco in data centre love-in

Partner up with strap on storage

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NetApp and Cisco are jointly marketing NetApp's storage arrays, validated to work with Cisco's UCS virtualised blade and networking computer system.

The idea is to give customers an easier job when choosing which storage to add to Cisco's Unified Computing System, announced earlier this month. This employs VMware server virtualisation software running in Cisco blade servers with integrated Cisco networking gear and a 10Gbit/s Ethernet networking design.

However the UCS did not include integrated and consolidated or networked storage, apart from whatever directly-attached storage there is on the server blades. Although EMC provided the virtualisation software via subsidiary VMware, it did not provide any storage. In fact the storage component of Cisco's unified computing vision is absent because it depends upon a working and standard Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) protocol which, in turn, depends upon a working and standard Data Centre Ethernet (DCE) standard.

So far only NetApp has demonstrated a native FCoE interface to its storage arrays. Emulex, QLogic and Brocade are all working to get their FCoE converged network adapters (CNAs) certified by the server vendors and shrunk to either mezzanine card or single chip designs suitable for use by blade servers and by storage array controllers.

This means that storage vendors need to find some way of interoperating with Cisco's UCS now, one that doesn't rely on the future DCE but one that can transition to it.

In the NetApp-Cisco partnership NetApp will get some of its storage products qualified for use with UCS via a Cisco Validated Design program.

The two will collaborate on joint marketing efforts, such as a multi-city “Virtualised Dynamic Data Centre Roadshow” with VMware and other UCS integration partners. NetApp will also participate in Cisco’s Data Centre of the Future program.

Both companies issued warm and friendly statements about each other, without saying anything about working exclusively together. NetApp reminds us that it supports and resells the Cisco Nexus 5000 and MDS data centre switching products, and that, in 2008, Cisco and NetApp announced support for the industry’s first native FCoE storage array.

Cisco has worked with NetApp on an Ethernet Unification Centre of Excellence, located at NetApp’s campus in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, which was announced in February and features Ethernet-based protocols running on a Cisco 10 Gigabit Ethernet backbone.

We can expect other enterprise storage array suppliers to do the same as Cisco extends its welcoming arms to them all, and we can also expect Brocade to start marketing server and storage array vendor interoperability with its data centre switching products. Be aware: data centre unification is the only politically correct stance for any vendor selling product into data centres now. ®

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