Cisco Extends SAN Coverage


Cisco Systems added software and two new devices to its MDS 9000 line of storage networking technology to better compete with rivals Brocade Communications Systems and McData .

The MDS 9216i fabric switch and the Multiprotocol Services Module, announced today at Storage Decisions 2004 in Chicago, feature Ethernet ports that can support Fibre Channel over IP or iSCSI .

The ability to extend a storage area network , replicate data and back it up are critical components of a disaster recovery and business continuity product, especially at a time when competition to devise such remedies to backing up data over long distances is fierce. Rajeev Bhardwaj, senior product manager for the Cisco MDS 9000, said the new hardware and software is designed to improve Cisco's ability to offer SAN extension for disaster recovery and business continuity, as well as SAN consolidation.

"What customers are asking us for is the ability to automate SANs and to create SANs with plug-and-play capability," Bhardwaj told

The Multiprotocol Services Module is designed for use with the MDS 9500 Series directors and the MDS 9200 Series Modular fabric switches. The Cisco MDS 9216i is a stand-alone system and is part of the Cisco MDS 9200 Series but shares a common architecture with the Cisco MDS 9000 family.

The devices support SAN-OS 2.0, the latest version of the operating system for the Cisco MDS 9000, which Cisco introduced at the conference Monday, said Bhardwaj.

SAN-OS 2.0 features several improvements to extend SANs over long-distance networks, including Fibre Channel buffer credits, allowing storage administrators to extend Fibre Channel traffic over very long distances; hardware compression, which enables very high data compression rates over high-speed WAN links; FCIP tape acceleration, which speeds up the transactions in remote backups; and IPSec encryption for secure data transfer.

Bhardwaj said Cisco is well positioned versus the competition because it is a pioneer in the SAN extension space. While the others talk about protocols, he said Cisco, which acquired the technology to build the MDS 9000 line from its purchase of Andiamo Systems in 2002, relies on storage building blocks to help build products for customers.

The new hardware and software are being tested by Cisco's storage resellers. Pricing and availability will be announced in the fourth quarter, although Susquehanna Financial Group enterprise storage analyst Kaushik Roy said the switches are expensive and will have little to no near-term impact on Brocade or McData.


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