Cisco Nexus ports stretched to take 40GE and 100GE loads
Catalyst campus switches bumped up to 40GE
If you want 10 Gigabit Ethernet to take off on servers, then you need fat backbones on the campuses and in the data centers to absorb the increase in traffic. And so Cisco Systems is ramping up the bandwidth on its Nexus 7000 series of end-of-row converged Ethernet switches as well as on its Catalyst 6500 campus switches.
Cisco started shipping 10GE switches way back in 2002 at the front end of that transition, and has been able to sell 10 million 10GE ports in total over that decade. Shashi Kiran, director of marketing for Data Center Solutions at Cisco, tells El Reg that it was pretty slow going at first - the growth was pretty linear from small numbers at the front-end of that decade. However, as 10GE switch and adapter card prices have come down, the port count curve is getting more exponential.
Server motherboard makers are expected to start laying down 10GE ports on their boards in greater numbers, and that is when the 10GE ramp will take off in earnest. And thus, Cisco is getting out in front of the 10GE cycle on servers to boost some more of its core data center and campus switches so they can handle 40GE and 100GE speeds.
First up, the Nexus 7000 modular end-of-row switches are getting two new modules. The Nexus 7000 M2 can now have a six-port 40GE module. The Nexus 7000 switch sports 15Tb/sec of aggregate capacity in the top-end model; it comes with 9, 10, or 18 slots for switch modules, depending on the model that you buy, and manages Layer 2 and 3 of the network stack.
The 18-slot Nexus 7000 can support 96 non-blocking 40GE ports, the 10-slot version can do 48 ports, and the 9-slot version can do 42 ports.
Cisco Systems' Nexus 7000 40GE switch module
There is also a Nexus 7000 M2 module that sports two 100GE ports if you want to build seriously fat links between server and storage racks and/or core switches. You can cram up to 32 of these 100GE ports into a single Nexus 7000 chassis.
Cisco plans to ship the 40GE and the 100GE modules for the Nexus 7000 in the second quarter. Pricing was not divulged today but will be available at that time.
Kiran says that Cisco will add 40GE ports to its Nexus 5000 top-of-rack converged switches, but did not say when that will happen.
Nearly a billion packets a second
Elsewhere in the data center, Cisco is doing a rev on the low-latency Nexus 3000 series rack switch aimed at ultra-low latency environments, such as high-frequency trading, called the Nexus 3064-X. Like its predecessor, the Nexus 3064  announced last March, the 3064-X has has 48 SFP+ ports that run at 10GE speeds and another four QSFP+ ports that are rated at 40GE.
You can use one-to-four splitter cables to deliver an additional 16 ports running at 10GE speeds across those 40GE ports if you want, making it a 60 porter. The Nexus 3064 delivers 1.28Tb/sec of Layer 2 and 3 switching and can process up to 950 million packets per second. It is not clear at press time what makes the 3064-X different from the 3064, but what El Reg can tell you is that the 3064-X will be available in March and costs $48,000.
The Nexus 1000v virtual switch and the Nexus 1010 and 1010-X virtual services appliances also get some tweaks today from Cisco. Kiran says that Cisco now has more than 5,000 customers using these virtual switches either on their own ESXi hypervisor on their own server or inside of a virtual appliance that has "virtual blades" running the virtual switch software.
There are two big changes with the Nexus 1000 series products coming down the pike, and they both have to do with scalability. Kiran tells El Reg that the Nexus 1000v virtual switch currently tops out at fielding 2,000 ports today, but will see its capacity increased by a factor of five to 10,000 ports by the end of calendar 2012.
The Nexus 1010-X virtual appliance, which now tops out at six virtual blades running the Nexus 1000v software, will see its capacity expanded up to ten virtual blades. The Nexus 1010-X appliance has a starting price of $37,500 and runs atop a 1U C Series Xeon rack server made by Cisco.
Cisco also added that virtual extensible LANs, or VXLANs, are now supported on the Nexus 1000v virtual switches, which scales up the number of virtual LANs that can be handled by the virtual switch and allowing for multi-tenancy on public and private clouds that use Cisco virtual switches.
On the campus front, Cisco is adding a 40GE Ethernet interface module for its Catalyst 6500 series. Using the 6904 line card, a Catalyst 6400 can sport 44 ports running at 40GE and 176 ports running at 10GE if you use the four-way splitters on it. This new line card will be available in April and costs $36,000. Cisco says that the Catalyst 6500 chassis has enough bandwidth to support 100GE ports, but that it "will take a little while" for 100GE to trickle down from the data center to the campus.
Finally, Cisco is today announcing the Catalyst 4500-X fixed-port aggregation switch, which is a high-density, rack-based device that has 800Gb/sec of switching bandwidth and that allows for two chassis to be linked together as a single "virtual switch" with 1.6Tb/sec of bandwidth. (Not to be confused with the Nexus 1000v virtual switch.) The Catalyst 4500-X has 40 10GE ports and costs $24,000. It is available now. ®