Cisco Nexus Review

A high-performance switch that is designed for lossless data and our customers are happy with

What is our primary use case?

We have a lot of customers that we implement Nexus platforms for.

How has it helped my organization?

This product is made for lossless data, so it's a very high-performance switch. If there's one place you don't want to lose data, it's in the data center. The 9Ks support speeds of 40-gigabit and 100-gigabit, today. They've got pretty good throughput in the box, they've got virtual output queues, things of that nature, which help contribute to the lossless data.

What is most valuable?

I like a lot about this solution. They are very high-performance switches and they are made for lossless data, so they're a good play in the customer environment. 

What needs improvement?

The 9K was developed to support ACI, the software-defined data center technology. For this reason, there is no feature parity between the 9K and the 5K or 7K, which means that it is harder to position the 9K to future proof them. If a customer wants to leverage their investment for ACI in the future then it is difficult. I know that Cisco has added some Fibre Channel over Ethernet capabilities to the 9K line, but there are some other features that it does not have capabilities for. For example, virtual device context is not supported. It would be really nice to see some capabilities like that added to the 9K line so that we can position them to future-proof our customers.

I understand why it is that they don't have some of the features from the older Nexus models, but we get into some scenarios where the customers need those features, and they have to go with a 7K or a 5K. Ideally, I would prefer to position a 9K if I could, to future-proof them and lead them along that path to ACI, eventually.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

With respect to the stability, I can't think of any major issues I've ever come across with it.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I think that these units are made to scale, but it depends on how they're deployed. If they're deployed within an ACI environment and that's the customer's expectation, they work fine.

If they're deployed, say, a 9500 model in a non-ACI role, a traditional data center switching role, and the customer decides that they want a virtual device context then we could not support it in that scenario. In this particular case, it wouldn't really scale. That is why it's tough sometimes, in a non-ACI environment, to implement the 9K.

How are customer service and technical support?

In general, Cisco has always got good technical support.

They're responsive, their people are always available, and they respond relatively quickly. Compared to competitors such as HP, Aruba, Dell EMC Networking, etc, the support from Cisco is always a head and shoulders above those other competitors.

How was the initial setup?

There is some complexity to the initial setup of this solution.

There are a lot of facets to configure a network. It's one thing to configure VLANs and things like that, but when you're configuring quality of service, for example, on a Nexus device, it's all class maps, service policies, mapping queues, and things like that. There is no auto QOS functionality like you might have on a Catalyst switch line, so they're a little bit more complex.

It is not really a big deal because once people have worked with them a little bit, they master it and move on.

What was our ROI?

They don't see additional revenue from it, but they do see cost savings. With the 9K in NX-OS mode, there's still a lot of touch points with them, although the support for bash and pipe can really simplify that. In an ACI mode, certainly, there are savings because of the orchestration and automation that's occurring as part of the software-defined network.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Cisco's licensing structures can be complex across different technologies, for example, unified communications. The ACI licensing is not so bad.

As they are moving to the DNA Essentials, as opposed to the old Cisco One Advantage-type solution, it is adding a little more complexity to the licensing scenarios. But in general, I think that Cisco is moving toward synching everything up and trying to get everything licensed in a similar way, whether its a data center switch or a campus network switch.

I'm fine with where Cisco is moving to.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

There are a lot of competitors out there. For example, the VMware NSX, which is a pure overlay, it's more network virtualization. The ACI solution is more full-featured, and you get visibility under the underlying overlay. It's very performing, and where we've deployed it for customers they are extremely happy with it. There's a learning curve in deploying it because you do things a little differently, but overall it's a solid solution.

When we lead with a software-defined data center, we lead with Cisco.

What other advice do I have?

I'm a pre-sales engineer, and I help customers blueprint out and design their future data center. We really like this solution. It's a great switch. If there is a data center switch we try to lead with, it's the 9K. I like the Cisco ACI solution in general, that the Nexus 9K is a foundation of. I would certainly recommend it.

If a competitor like VM or NSX tries to position their solution and they try to say, "You don't really have to replace the network or re-design the network", that's not really true because the overlay is only going to be as performant as the underlay. If they deploy that technology on an old-age network that's not deployed in a spine and left topology, then the customer is going to have to do that anyway. The Cisco solution takes all of that into consideration as part of the deployment, so it is an optimized software-defined network when it's deployed for the customer.

Overall, they are a pretty good switch, although it doesn't have some of the features that some of the previous lines have had.

I would rate this solution an eight out of ten.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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