Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cisco Pitches MPLS Alternative Easy Virtual Network (EVN)

Image representing Cisco as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase Amid a flurry of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) switching announcements arriving Wednesday, there's this: The company is pitching an alternative to Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).
That's amusing because back in the 1990s, MPLS started life as tag switching, a Cisco-proprietary protocol that eventually morphed into a standard. Now, Cisco is saying MPLS is too complex for some enterprises, so it's introducing a new, proprietary protocol. "It's kind of going back to where we started," says Craig Huitema, director of marketing for Cisco Data Center Solutions.
Cisco doesn't want to replace MPLS. The new protocol, Easy Virtual Network (EVN), is just for certain cases where an enterprise wants to create separate logical networks that all sit on the same physical network -- a request that's common in the age of virtualization.
It can be done with MPLS, but many enterprise staffs don't know MPLS, Huitema says. Cisco claims EVN is simpler because it avoids technologies such as the BGP routing protocol, which is what MPLS uses to promulgate routing information throughout the network.
EVN is being offered on the Catalyst 4500 and 6500 and the ASR 1000.
Cisco's announcement also includes some noteworthy high-speed line cards:
  • 40 Gbit/s for the Catalyst 6500, fulfilling a promise made last July. The box will be able to support 44 ports of 40 Gbit/s.
  • Two new modules for the Nexus 7000: one with six 40Gbit/s ports and another with two 100Gbit/s ports.
Why this matters
Cisco is still pushing back against intensified competition in the switch market from Arista Networks Inc. , Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). As Cisco found out in 2010, it can't ignore its fundamental markets, such as switching, for the sake of chasing more glamorous "adjacencies."
The data center is a hot market now, so every company has to keep pushing to get more out of its switches. One common front is to boast about new software that makes the network simpler to run, which is where EVN fits in.

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