• United States
Neal Weinberg
Contributing writer, Foundry

Cisco storage switch

Jan 21, 20033 mins
Cisco SystemsData CenterSAN

* Cisco's MDS 9509 passes the Reviewmeister's performance tests with flying colors

When we heard Cisco was about to start selling a storage-area network switch, we just had to get our hands on the product – the MDS 9509.

This is one powerful switch. The Multilayer DataCenter Switch boast 112 ports and claims 2G bit/sec throughput. At roughly $2,000 per port, a fully featured, 112-port switch would run you $224,000.

But if you’re running a large datacenter, it just might be worth it. The MDS 9509 has a modular, multislot chassis with two slots for the switch fabric and seven switching module slots that can accommodate MDS series blades.

While multiple protocols, including Fibre Channel over IP, Internet over Fibre Channel Protocol and iSCSI, are supported on the MDS 9509, FICON and ESCON are not. Without FICON – which is essentially ESCON over Fibre Channel – the MDS 9509 won’t be able to network with IBM mainframes. Cisco says FICON support is planned, but did not provide a time frame.

The SAN switch passed all of our performance tests with flying colors.

* In a 30-second test using large, 2,148-byte packet frames, bidirectional per-port throughput was 210M bit/sec on all ports, which represents 100% line rate.

* With 60-byte frames, under a 100% delivered load on all 112 ports, raw throughput was 150M bit/sec per port, which is 98.7% of the bidirectional theoretical line rate – the highest we’ve ever observed on director-class switches in a multiport test using small frames.

In these two tests, traffic was delivered on one port and came out on another port on the same blade. In our next tests, traffic went into one port and came out on another port on a different blade. This forces the MDS 9509 to switch traffic between ASICs through the switch, which let us check for blocking within the switch’s fabric. The MDS 9509 proved to be totally nonblocking, even in our full-mesh tests.

In a full-mesh test using large 2,148-byte frames, we had 100% theoretical maximum throughput.

The MDS 9509 had a maximum latency of 219 microsec when tested with large frames. We’ve seen director-class switch latencies ranging from 174 microsec to more than 600 microsec.

For redundancy, this product ships with one MDS 9509 Supervisor-1 CPU card (a second is optional) that supports nondisruptive code load and activation. Nondisruptive code load is the ability to upgrade the firmware or core operating software without downtime.

With this product, Cisco introduced the virtual SAN (VSAN), which basically takes the concept of Fibre Channel fabric zoning a step further.

VSANs have the ability to segment the database. That means each defined zone is a discrete storage network with its own dedicated database. So if one VSAN experiences trouble, it doesn’t affect the other VSANs defined within the switch.

The MDS 9509 is managed through a command-line interface, which has the look and feel of a Cisco IOS CLI. Management also occurs through Device Manager and Fabric Manager, two Java-based Web interfaces that can be downloaded directly from the switch.  For the full report, go to