Looking to make it easier to consolidate the number of racks and amount of cabling required in the data center, Cisco this week added 96-port Fibre channel and a 40G converged Ethernet switches to its storage portfolio.
In addition, Cisco announced it is adding 16G support to its existing MDS 9700 and 9250i platforms and support for IBM FICON Distance Extension using 10G FCIP and specialized acceleration technologies.
Nitin Garg, senior manager for product Management in the Cisco Data Center Group, says with these additions Cisco is trying to make it simpler to scale storage deployments in the data center while also reducing the number of switches that actually need to be deployed.
“We’re trying to make it easier to adapt to changing needs over time,” says Garg. “That means being able to support multi-protocol capabilities.
In general, Garg says IT organizations need to be able to deploy Fibre channel to support high-performance workloads. But there are also scenario where IP Ethernet and Fibre Channel over Ethernet need to be supported. The Cisco lineup of network storage switches is designed to all run the same operating system, which Garg says makes it simpler to manage the overall storage environment.
Garg says the 96-port Cisco MDS 9396S Fabric Switch can be configured with as few as 12 ports and then upgraded in a set of 12 port modules that doesn’t force customers to pay for 96 ports when, for example, they only need 48 at the moment.
The 40G Ethernet support in the Cisco Nexus 7700 and Nexus 7000 platforms, meanwhile, enables IT organizations to support FCoE, NAS, iSCSI, IP-based object storage, and LAN connectivity on a single platform.
While Cisco has become a force to be reckoned with in terms of delivering blade servers, the company’s efforts in leveraging its switching expertise in the realm of storage have been somewhat overshadowed. Garg says the end goal is to be able to not only mix and match Cisco switches as needed, but also be able to connect to both Cisco Unified Compute Systems and mainframes.
Given the amount of diversity that currently exists inside most data center environments being able to use a common base of switches to connect to multiple classes of servers no doubt offers a certain amount of appeal. Of course, Cisco is not the only switch vendor pursuing that strategy. But it may be one of the few vendors with the dedicated networking and server expertise needed to make it really work.