Cisco Aims Low with New SAN Switches


Cisco took aim at Fibre Channel switch competitors Monday with a new fabric switch that sells for as low as $5,000.

Up until now, Cisco has competed with the soon-to-merge Brocade and McData in the high-end director switch space, but the new MDS 9124 is a serious play for the SMB market, starting at $5,000-$5,500 for an 8-port switch and $7,000-$8,000 for a 16-port switch. It can expand up to 24 ports per switch.

"The value of this platform is in its flexibility," said Rajeev Bhardwaj, director of product management for Cisco's data center business unit. "It has the ability to grow with the business."

Cisco also packed the switch with easy to use features such as point-and-click configuration wizards and high-end capabilities such as 4 Gbps Fibre Channel, Virtual SANs (VSANs), security, high availability and flexibility, powered by the Cisco SAN OS operating system.

"The 9124 is an ambitious foray into the entry-level fabric switching market," said Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Brian Garrett. "Features like software upgradeability using a single chip solution with advanced SAN-OS features like VSANs built-in and a new wizard for rapid first-time installation will be noticed not only by McData and Brocade, but also by QLogic, who has made a lot of progress in the past couple years in the entry-level switching market."

While the director-class switch market has been a three-way race between Cisco, Brocade and McData, Brocade holds an overwhelming advantage in the fabric switch market, with about a two-thirds market share, according to Dell'Oro Group figures. Cisco hopes to put a dent in that lead with the new offering, with the merger of Brocade and McData looming.

The MDS 9124 packs up to 24 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports in a 1RU form-factor, with line rate performance on each port, growing in 8-port increments. Ports are added "on demand" through a port activation license. Compatibility with all Cisco MDS multilayer directors and switches provides investment protection for both new and current customers.

Cisco expects the new switch to be offered by Dell, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, IBM, Network Appliance, Sun Microsystems and Xiotech.

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