Fiber Channel (FC) storage networks have always been somewhat of a black box. Servers and storage devices are plugged in, and things magically seem to work.\nFor the most part, storage-area networks (SANs) are reliable and perform well \u2013 and they better because the applications that rely of FC-SANs are typically the most important ones in the company. But what happens when things aren\u2019t working? A poorly performing SAN might mean that the database with critical customer information isn\u2019t available or financial records can\u2019t be pulled up.\u00a0\n\nHistorically, troubleshooting SANs has been difficult because the FC switches give off little data that can be used to identify the source of a problem. Typically, engineers would need to deploy a physical test access port (TAP) or packet broker in front of the product to capture the data. This may seem like a reasonable strategy until one prices out TAPs and learns the price per port is about 5-10x a FC port. Companies that go down this route often buy a few and deploy them only when there is a problem. This causes the engineering team to always be in reactive mode.\u00a0\nBetter way to analyze SAN operations\nThis week, Cisco announced a new SAN switch with integrated telemetry to enable customers to analyze SAN operations better. Cisco added the FC header information to the streamed data, enabling management tools to have a better view of the end-to-end FC fabric. Now if a problem happens, an administrator can see it immediately and remediate the problem.\u00a0\nAlso, the data can be captured, baselined and monitored, so storage operations can move to a more predictive model and upgrade systems before a problem damages the business. This lets the engineers focus on strategic things without having to jump into firefighting mode when unknown problems come up.\nThe SAN telemetry has some interesting implication for Cisco customers. The streaming data can be used to improve the accuracy of Cisco\u2019s other analytic products, such as Tetration and recently acquired AppD. Cisco has massive amounts of network data to provide insights to customers to help them make better decisions. Now this can include storage data.\u00a0\nCisco MDS 9123T FC switch\nThe capabilities are enabled on the shiny, new Cisco MDS 9123T FC switch using the MDS 9700 32G Module, which has integrated sensors to provide deep-packet, inspection-level insight into SAN fabric, which provides pervasive visibility. These link cards run at speeds of up to 32GB and can be placed anywhere in the I\/O path, so it\u2019s completely invisible to normal operations.\u00a0\nThe switch itself is a beefy 32 port 32 GB FC switch. For some customers, this may seem like overkill, so Cisco added some modularity to the product. The switch can be bought with as few as eight ports and then scale up to 32 as the demand increases. The switch has been designed for the data center of the future, with support for flash memory and NVMe coming in a future release. The technical specs of the switch are in line with director-level products but in a 1RU form factor.\u00a0\n Cisco \nCisco MDS 9123T FC switch\n\nCisco has also partnered with Virtual Instruments (VI) to bring better monitoring to high-performance environments, such as those found in financial services or webscale companies. The VirtualWisdom application from VI uses the company\u2019s virtual TAPs to non-intrusively monitor and analyze the performance of large-scale FC-SANs.\u00a0\nStorage and FC aren\u2019t the most exciting topics, but they\u2019re extremely important because almost all critical data runs across it. Despite the maturity in the market, it\u2019s good to see Cisco continuing to bring innovation to it. Ethernet networks have had advanced telemetry capabilities for years. Bringing these capabilities to FC is long overdue.