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News - Cisco's Big Switch

Jan 30, 2008 Cisco's Big Switch

January 28, 2008 6:00 am EST
By: Andy Greenberg

In his latest book, tech pundit Nicholas Carr put a name on a trend that's transforming information technology: As the world becomes more networked, he points out, computing power is undergoing "the Big Switch," moving off of desktops and into massive data centers, where it's cheaper and more efficient.

Now Cisco, whose name is synonymous with networking, is eyeing that migration to the data center, and working on a big switch of its own--the biggest, in fact, that it has ever produced. On Monday, Cisco announced the development of the Nexus 7000, a network switch that's capable of routing 15 terabits of data per second--the equivalent of moving the entire contents of Wikipedia in a hundredth of a second, or downloading every movie available on Netflix in about 40 seconds.

Cisco's 3-1/2-foot-tall box, like any network switch, is a device designed to control and direct the flow of data between connected computers. But its massive bandwidth capacity--which Cisco says is 20 times that of any switch currently available--isn't the only thing separating the Nexus 7000 from its ancestors. In a traditional data center, data storage devices and servers have been connected via Fibre Channel and Infiniband cables that can only move data over short distances. A third kind of cable, Ethernet, is needed to connect them to Internet networks that bring data to faraway users. The Nexus 7000 is designed to combine those three types of cables in a new, smarter form of Ethernet cable. Without the old layer of short-distance cables, this new Ethernet system will connect servers and storage drives directly to long-distance networks, making them accessible to each other from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

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