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Datacenter networks: You'll manage them from the cloud, eventually, claims Cisco

Nexus portfolio undergoes cloudy Software-as-a-Service revamp

Cisco's Nexus Cloud will eventually allow customers to manage their datacenter networks entirely from the cloud, says the networking giant.

The company unveiled the latest addition to its datacenter-focused Nexus portfolio at Cisco Live this week, where the product set got a software-as-a-service (SaaS) revamp.

"It's targeted at network operations teams that need to manage, or want to manage, their Nexus infrastructure as well as their public-cloud network infrastructure in one spot," Cisco's Thomas Scheibe – VP product management, cloud networking for Nexus & ACI product lines – told The Register.

This is important, he claims, because the majority of Cisco's datacenter customers – both large and small – are finding themselves deploying workloads across multiple on-prem, collocation, and cloud environments.

The idea behind Nexus Cloud is to extend the same kind of centralized, cloud-delivered network management that Cisco has offered its Meraki wireless and LAN switching customers for years to the datacenter.

Despite being made available, the product is still evolving, Scheibe admitted. "Customers are telling us that it will take them some time to feel comfortable [enough] to run the whole management of the infrastructure cloud-based. But what they want to do is start monitoring, and troubleshooting, and doing capacity planning, and compliance checks."

At launch, Nexus Cloud will offer centralized monitoring and visibility capabilities, while management will continue to be handled by Nexus Dashboard running on-premises.

Additional functionality, including machine-learning-powered analytics, will come later, Scheibe said. "Over time, we will give customers the option to shift the complete management of the infrastructure into Nexus Cloud."

The platform itself is actually built on top of the Cisco's Intersight platform used by its HyperFlex HCI and USC-X servers.

Intersight got a SaaS revamp of its own last year, and earlier this year Cisco added support for managing Kubernetes clusters and virtual machine instances running in Amazon Web Services EC2.

Thanks to tight integration between Nexus Cloud and Intersight, customers with smaller IT teams can deploy and network workloads running on and off premises from a single dashboard, Scheibe said.

For example, if a customer has a workload running in AWS that needs to connect to a database running on-prem, the combined offering will enable customers to deploy and configure the application and networking all in one go.

Cisco brings 800G to Nexus Portfolio

Alongside Nexus Cloud, Cisco also detailed its next generation of Nexus datacenter switches, which it says are capable of supporting 400-800Gbps connectivity.

The company's existing Nexus datacenter family was introduced nearly a decade ago, and has been updated over several generations of line cards to support up to 400Gbps networking.

Cisco's 9800-series chassis switches are meant as a sort of reset around a baseline of 400Gbps connectivity, Scheibe explained. He added that just like previous generation Nexus switches, as faster silicon and optics become available, Cisco will offer higher bandwidth line cards to support larger data flows.

Meanwhile, the company plans to launch a smaller modular chassis later this year called the Nexus 9400, which will offer either 64x 400Gbps ports or 128x 200Gbps ports.

Alongside its big modular chassis, Cisco also updated its Nexus 9300 fixed-form-factor switches – bumping up the number of 400Gbps ports from 16 to 48 or 64.

All of the new switches announced at Cisco Live are based on a combination of Cisco's in-house Silicon One and Cloud Scale ASICs.

The update comes as analysts predict strong adoption of 400Gbps networking by major cloud and hyperscale customers.

According to Dell'Oro Group, shipments of 400Gbps switches exceeded 800,000 ports in the first quarter of 2022, and the firm expects that number to continue to ramp up over the next year.

The switches arrive as the first round of 400Gbps NICs are slated to hit the market – though Scheibe expects that most datacenters will top out at 100Gbps connectivity to the client and retain their 400Gbps ports for aggregation.

Cisco's Nexus 9300 and 9800 switches will begin shipping later this quarter, while its 9400s are slated for release this fall. ®

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