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Cisco reinforces storage with new switches, mgmt. software

News Analysis
Apr 26, 20183 mins
Data Center

New MDS model switches include redundant components and multiple power options, as well as support for FibreChannel-NVMe

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Cisco this week fortified its storage family with two new 32G Fibre Channel switches and software designed to help customers manage and troubleshoot their SANS.

The new switches, the 48-Port MDS 9148T and 96-Port MDS 9396T feature a technology called Auto Zone that automatically detects any new  storage servers or devices that log into a SAN and automatically zones them without having to do manual configuration.

The idea is to eliminate the cycles spent in provisioning new devices and avert errors that typically occur when manually configuring complex zones. Even when a host or storage hardware is upgraded or a faulty facility is replaced, the switch automatically detects the change and zones them into the SAN, Cisco said.

The switches also support a number of features that are typically only found in higher-end boxes, according to Cisco’s Adarsh Viswanathan senior manager, storage product management and marketing.  These include redundancy of components, HVAC/HVDC power options and smaller failure domains to ensure higher reliability.

The switches also support Fibre Channel-NVMe to help customers moving towards all-flash storage environments. NVMe was developed for SSDs by a consortium of vendors including Intel, Samsung, Sandisk, Dell, and Seagate and is designed as a standard controller technology for PCI-Express interfaces between CPUs and flash storage.

The switches fill out Cisco’s existing MDS storage-fabric switch line which includes the 9132T 32 Port 32G Fibre Channel Switch and MDS 9396S 16G Multilayer Fabric Switch.  The MDS family also includes the much larger 9700 Director line of switches.

On the software side, Cisco enhanced its MDS Diagnostics (version 11) suite to help customers spot and fix SAN-wide problems. For example, new features called HBA Diagnostics and Read Diagnostic Parameter let MDS switches initiate tests to validate and confirm normal operations on edge-connected devices.

Another feature, Link Cable Beacon, helps administrators more easily identify physical ports by flashing lights to help them identify where specific devices are attached, reducing downtime, Cisco says. 

The new switches also support a feature found in its higher-level switches known as telemetry. Telemetry lets customers analyze SAN operations more efficiently by letting administrators have a more sophisticated view of the enterprise Fibre Channel fabric. The idea is to spot problems and solve them in real time.

Cisco research says by the year 2020, the amount of data stored inside data centers is expected to grow by a factor of five, from 400 exabytes to almost 2 zettabytes. By 2020, data-center storage installed capacity will grow to 1.8 ZB, up from 382 EB in 2015, nearly a five-fold growth.

A 2016 report from Dell’Oro Group noted that 32Gb Fibre Channel revenue is expected to exceed $1 billion by 2020 as 32 Gbps Fibre Channel switch port shipments are expected to eclipse over half the market by then. Brocade, Cisco, Broadcom/Emulex and Cavium/QLogic are some of the main players in that arena.