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LAS VEGAS — Cisco is using its Cisco Live! 2010 event to announce advances in energy management, data center virtualization, cloud computing and collaboration. The networking company says high-end data-center customers are looking for massive scalability, high-bandwidth, low latency and compatible switching solutions, and that’s what they’re getting with three of the announcements: the new FabricPath and Nexus 7000 F-series module; enhancements to its WAN optimization Wide Area Application Services Software (WAAS 4.2); and new services for cloud enablement and intelligent automation.

According to the company, the Data Center 3.0 framework emphasizes investment protection and the incremental incorporation of new technologies and infrastructure, so investment is more closely aligned with business need. The underlying tenets — consolidation, virtualization and automation — yield both reduced total cost of ownership (TCO; better asset utilization, reduced power and cooling needs, and improved operational efficiency) and improved responsiveness to the needs of the business.

In a recent interview with Channel Insider, Cisco’s global channel leader Keith Goodwin explained midmarket companies – not large enterprises – have accelerated Cisco’s next-generation data center and networking vision, and that the partner opportunities are huge.

One of the major market transitions is virtualization and data center, and this one is really exciting for Cisco and its partners, he said. “The network—the virtualized network—along with compute and storage are defining the next-generation data center.”

“We’re tapping into customer demands for massive scalability requirements, high bandwidth and low latency,” says Shashi Kiran, who heads the Enterprise Routing and WAN Optimization Marketing team at Cisco.

An NX-OS addition for the Nexus family of switches, FabricPath adds Layer 3 (L3) capabilities – all links active, fast convergence and highly scalable – to Layer 2 (L2) features – simple configuration, flexible provisioning and low cost. “It’s being delivered on existing switches that are shipping today. It’s not a rip-and-replace option.”

Due to ship next quarter, Kiran tells Channel Insider this solution offers both investment protection and deployment flexibility. Key benefits include: 16X improvement in bandwidth performance; reduction from 74 managed devices to 12 devices; lower power, lower latency; 2X+ increase in network availability; and simplified IT operations and workload flexibility. The FabricPath license starts at $25,000, while the new F-series module will start at $35,000.

Cisco also updated its WAAS software to address three IT drivers: the adoption of virtualization, private/public clouds and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in the data center; the increased use of Web-based applications, collaboration tools and virtual desktops; and the increase in mobile workers, ‘low-footprint’ branches and partner access. WAAS 4.2 enhancements include: WAAS as on-demand service for the Integrated Services Router (ISR) G2: Web and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) optimizations; WAAS Mobile 3.5 server software can now be  deployed in a public cloud infrastructure; support for virtual hosting of general-purpose Windows server 2008/R2 on the WAAS appliances; and the addition of a ‘Serial Inline Cluster’ deployment mode targeted for small/medium datacenters.

Cisco has also introduced the Catalyst 4948-E 1RU, fixed-configuration switch providing 48 ports of wire-speed 10/100/1000BASE-T, with optional 4x1G/10G SFP+. And the company announced a new set of three Cloud Enablement Services – Cisco Cloud Strategy Service, Cisco Cloud Planning and Design Service and Cisco Cloud Implementation Service — and Intelligent Automation Solutions based on the Tidal acquisition. Tidal Enterprise Orchestrator captures IT best practices for streamlining service delivery and support. Tidal Enterprise Scheduler manages enterprise workload automation, central scheduling and processes across a range of systems, databases and applications.

“We’re really changing the game,” says Kiran, from both a customer and channel perspective. “All these innovations really help our partners drive customer loyalty… as well as look for new opportunities.”