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Cisco enters storage, hyperconvergence market with data center splash

Jim Duffy | March 2, 2016
Deal with SpringPath yields HyperFlex line; new Nexus switches support 25/50G.

SAN DIEGO – Cisco this week is throwing its hat into the hyperconvergence and software-defined storage ring with a system co-developed with software company SpringPath.

Cisco is also rolling out at its Cisco Partner Summit here a new generation of Nexus 9000 data center switches featuring 25G/50G Ethernet based on custom ASICs. The new products dovetail with Cisco’s acquisition today of CliQr, a maker of “application-defined” hybrid cloud orchestration software for deploying and managing applications across bare metal, virtualized and container environments.

Those products include the HX Data Platform, the first offering in Cisco’s new HyperFlex systems portfolio (pictured). HX Data combines SpringPath software with Cisco UCS servers to form a distributed storage system using solid-state drives and spinning disks from federated server clusters.

The intent is to provide data center administrators with a single distributed, multi-tier, object-based data store that converges network and compute, and fills what Cisco says are gaps in current offerings from start-ups and established vendors: scale, performance, optimization and integrated policy management.

Cisco’s hyperconvergence offering was expected for some time and will compete with VMware’s EVO:RAIL system, and products from start-ups Nutanix, SimpliVity, Maxta, Scale Computing, ScaleIO (which was acquired by EMC), and LeftHand Networks (which was acquired by HP). Dell’s VRTX product is also considered a hyperconvergence solution.

Cisco was rumored to be looking to acquire Nutanix, and it has an existing partnership with SimpliVity. Both companies also have relationships with data center server vendor Lenovo.

But hyperconvergence solutions from start-ups have first generation limitations that limit the potential of the technology, Cisco claims. Those limitations include “inflexible and inefficient lock step scaling” of hyperconverged nodes; SDS stacks built on conventional write-in-place file systems, which hinder performance and data optimization; new silos of management and policies instead of integrating with existing tools; and separately integrated, instead of fully converged, networking.

The HX Data product attempts to overcome these limitations by tightly melding Cisco networking, and security and compliance controls throughout the application lifecycle when distributing, migrating, and replicating data across storage environments. Compute and storage capacity can independently scale, Cisco says, allowing for resources to be added incrementally via HX nodes or UCS blades.

“We measured our entry into this market very carefully and developed the requirements based on what we have learned from tens of thousands of customers of all sizes,” said Satinder Sethi, vice president of data center solutions engineering and UCS product management at Cisco. “A start-up, no matter how good their technology, just doesn’t have this type of insight.”

HX Data and HyperFlex systems also enlist the Cisco fabric network to support parallel data distribution and replication for high availability and performance, Cisco says. Data is optimized through deduplication and compression, and dynamic placement in server memory, caching, and capacity tiers not only supports redundancy but lowers storage cost, the company says.


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