Cisco has just unveiled its Data Center 3.0. Most of you have probably never heard of Cisco’s Data Center versions 1.0 and 2.0. Even though I went to the Cisco Networkers conference last year, I’d never heard of these initiatives either.

But maybe 3.0 is the magic version number. Windows didn’t become popular until Windows 3.0 — few users are familiar with Windows 1.0 and 2.0. It seems like the same thing goes for data center strategies.

So why do you care? If you didn’t know about Data Center 1.0 or 2.0, why should 3.0 make a difference? Here’s my take on why it matters.

What is Data Center 3.0?

Just as Web 2.0 has become a buzzword for the next generation of the Internet, Data Center 3.0 is certainly a smartly coined marketing term. To learn more, you can check out this three-minute video from Cisco.

But in my opinion, you’re better off reading this article. If you’re anything like me, your head will be spinning by the end of the video from all the big marketing words, and you won’t know much more than when you started.

So, what is Data Center 3.0 (DC 3.0) really? Here’s a snapshot:

  • DC 3.0 is a Cisco initiative to join servers, the network, and applications together, facilitating efficiencies and increasing benefits. Cisco has dubbed it “the heartbeat of Cisco.”
  • DC 3.0 facilitates server, network, and application virtualization. It combines virtualization with the goal of automating the data center.
  • DC 3.0 is a plan for the future — this initiative will run from 2007 to 2010 — so you won’t have to worry about upgrading to Data Center 4.0 by Christmas.
  • This is a plan with partners involved; because data centers only contain Cisco devices, Cisco must work with its partners to make DC 3.0 a reality.
  • DC 3.0 is a vision made up of many Cisco software and hardware products. There’s a reason that Cisco has been buying all those software companies.

And yet, this still doesn’t really explain DC 3.0.Let’s try to clarify the big picture. Here are some of the many products that currently make up the DC 3.0 initiative:

  • VFrame Data Center orchestration platform: VFrame is a $60,000 1U Red Hat Linux server with software that allows you to automate server provisioning. This server can talk to the SAN and the LAN to quickly create servers on the fly. It will be interesting to see how this server fits in with virtualization initiatives from Microsoft and VMware/EMC.
  • Smart Call Home: This service feature allows Cisco routers to “call home” when there’s an issue. This seems like a great feature that could really improve runtime, but it also has some frightening security aspects. This service is part of Cisco SMARTnet and will initially only be available on Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series switches and routers. The service comes with a Web portal to check the status of your automatically generated TAC ticket. I really like the automation of this service.
  • Channel partner specializations: Look for Cisco resellers to say that they’re “Data Center 3.0 certified.”

For more information, check out the recently announced list of Data Center 3.0 initiatives. However, keep in mind that this is a three-year vision, so there will be plenty of related products coming out in the future.

Why should you care about Data Center 3.0?

While some of these features may sound moderately interesting, is it really something you should concern yourself with? Well, if you have a data center and you use Cisco products, then you should care about DC 3.0. Even though current DC 3.0 initiatives might not affect your organization, sooner or later, they will.

I believe that the DC 3.0 features built into Cisco’s networking devices will integrate and facilitate the social networking, collaboration, and other applications of the future. All of the server and network applications that we think of as being separate today will become more and more consolidated over time.


I like that Cisco is taking on such a large project that can benefit all areas of an enterprise infrastructure. Cisco usually succeeds at what it sets out to do, so I look forward to seeing how it can help not just the huge data centers that can afford $60,000 virtualization servers but data centers of all sizes.

In addition, I look forward to seeing how DC 3.0 can improve the depth and breadth of features on small to midsize routers and switches. I hope that DC 3.0 doesn’t affect only high-end Cisco products.

What do you think of DC 3.0? Is it all hype, or is it an important piece of your future enterprise infrastructure?

David Davis has worked in the IT industry for 12 years and holds several certifications, including CCIE, MCSE+I, CISSP, CCNA, CCDA, and CCNP. He currently manages a group of systems/network administrators for a privately owned retail company and performs networking/systems consulting on a part-time basis.

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