Cisco Makes SANs Smarter

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Cisco has unveiled high-end storage networking features for its MDS 9000 directors and fabric switches, including SAN management, security, and multiprotocol transport offerings.

The new features are available through MDS 9000 SAN-OS 1.3, the latest version of the platform’s operating system.

Cisco claims a number of industry firsts for the new features, including the first Inter-VSAN (virtual SAN) routing, Quality of Service (QoS), Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) write acceleration and compression, and intermixing of open systems protocols.

“Lots of good stuff,” summarizes Nancy Marrone-Hurley, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group. “I think the [FCIP] write acceleration and compression will really help them push remote DR (disaster recovery) configurations.”

Cisco says Inter-VSAN routing allows servers in different virtual SANs to share common storage resources, such as disk or tape, located either locally or remotely, while maintaining the security, scalability, and availability of VSANs. While each VSAN provides an independent set of SAN services and strict traffic isolation, Inter-VSAN Routing allows selective transfer of data traffic between devices on different VSANs without merging VSANs into a single logical fabric. Inter-VSAN routing can also be deployed across geographically dispersed sites for disaster recovery and business continuity applications.

Quality of Service lets MDS 9000 SANs differentiate and prioritize storage traffic based on the specific requirements of the data. For example, with QoS capabilities, an MDS 9000 SAN is able to give priority to latency-sensitive applications such as online transaction processing (OLTP) in favor of throughput-intensive applications such as data warehousing.

FCIP write acceleration and compression reduces write input/output (I/O) latency and increases bandwidth utilization during FCIP transactions, improving business continuity/disaster recovery by allowing users to extend FCIP connections over longer distances while reducing application response times.

Cisco says the MDS 9000 SAN-OS 1.3 can support intermixing of open systems protocols – such as Fibre Channel, iSCSI, and FCIP – and FICON (Fiber Connector) with FICON CUP (Control Unit Port) management on the same switch through VSANs. Allowing for management of mainframe systems with the MDS 9000 protects investment in such legacy devices, which are still widely available in enterprise data centers.

MDS 9000 SAN-OS 1.3 also includes an enhanced, server-based version of the Cisco Fabric Manager, the embedded, graphical network management tool for the entire Cisco MDS 9000 family. Cisco Fabric Manager Server (FMS) offers three new features: centralized management of multiple physical fabrics; continuous discovery, health, and event monitoring; and historical performance monitoring with drill-down capability to analyze statistics for items such as inter-switch links, route flows, and PortChannels.

Cisco Supports Open Standards

Cisco is also offering support for several proposed open industry standards in the areas of SAN security and management.

For SAN security, the Cisco MDS 9000 SAN-OS 1.3 supports switch-to-switch and server-to-switch authentication through the Fibre Channel Security Protocol (FC-SP), which is designed to prevent intrusion from unauthorized devices, and Terminal Access Controller Access Control System (TACACS+), which gives customers another option in addition to RADIUS for the authentication, authorization, and accounting of their switches.

In the area of SAN management, Cisco reports the new MDS 9000 OS includes support for the embedded Common Information Model (CIM) interface based on the Storage Management Interface Specification (SMI-S); the Internet Storage Name Service (iSNS) protocol, which automates the discovery, management, and
configuration of iSCSI devices; and Fabric Device Management Interface (FDMI), which gives users a standard way to manage all of their host bus adapters (HBAs) from a single central location instead of having to manage them separately from individual servers.

The MDS 9000 SAN-OS 1.3 is now available to Cisco’s OEM partners for interoperability qualification testing.

IBM has already announced its first application of the new Cisco platform, the IBM TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller for Cisco MDS 9000 Solution. “By integrating IBM’s storage virtualization technology and FICON switching into the Cisco MDS 9000, customers will have more options to integrate and virtualize their storage networks for the on-demand world,” states Peter Thurston, IBM SAN switch marketing manager.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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