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Fabric Extender architecture extensions

Building on the success of the Fabric Extender concept that was introduced first with the Nexus 2000, then with the embedded connectivity in UCS blade chassis, Cisco is proposing two innovative extensions for this architecture : Adapter FEX and VM-FEX.

Adapter FEX offers unique functionality that is actually familiar for customers who have already deployed the Virtual Interface Card in UCS blade systems. The idea is to virtualize PCI devices within the server, without the need for O/S-specific agents. Thanks to this technology, a server administrator can deploy up to 58 virtual adapters (NIC or HBA) that will be presented to the O/S as “regular” PCI devices. What Adapter FEX brings is now the possibility to leverage this technology in other servers — the first implementation will be available on UCS C-series rackmount servers through the P81E card connecting to a Nexus 5500 switch or Nexus 2232 fabric extender. As Adapter FEX is based on IEEE 802.1Qbh, it allows an ecosystem of server card vendors to join the momentum as well.

VM-FEX takes the idea even further and is initially supported on the UCS B-series VIC. This new technology eliminates the virtual switch within the hypervisor by providing individual VM virtual ports on the physical network switch. VM I/O is sent directly to the upstream physical network switch (in this case, the UCS 6100 Series Fabric Interconnect), which takes full responsibility for virtual machine switching and policy enforcement.

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