Cisco Systems has announced new data centre virtualisation software that builds on the Data Center 3.0 programme it launched a year ago.

Cisco's announcement, made at its annual CiscoLive conference, builds on a wider industry trend toward virtualisation of storage devices, networking gear and servers in data centres.

"Cisco's trying to put the network at the centre of things," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group. "The new products themselves are less significant than Cisco's overall vision, [since] the network is the only thing that touches all the data centre components."

Cisco also announced Wide Area Applications Services (WAAS) Release 4.1 software to accelerate application delivery, including video content via virtual blade technology to branch offices, said George Kurian, Cisco's general manager of the application delivery business unit.

Cisco also announced Application Control Engine (ACE) Release 2.0 for its ACE 4710 application switch to double virtualised application switching speeds to 4Gbits/s in a single device, he said.

A third software announcement, for Cisco VFrame 1.2, offers end-to-end setup with Cisco ACE VMware ESX switches, Kurian added.

Cisco didn't announce pricing for its WAAS 4.1 video and virtualisation capabilities, although some basic application acceleration capabilities will be free to customers under service contracts. Gill said Cisco WAAS with earlier software releases was "very reliable and affordable" and had helped reduce overall cost of ownership. WAAS 4.1 will be available sometime in the third quarter.

ACE 2.0 will be available in August at no charge to Cisco customers on service contracts. Cisco VFrame 1.2, also expected to be available in the third quarter, starts at $59,995 (£30,000).

Kerravala said Cisco sales of WAAS and ACE products have done well and "have been a bright spot for Cisco." Riverbed Technology and F5 Networks. are the data centre infrastructure technology leaders, but Cisco is working to "close the gap," he noted.