Cisco speeds data over WANs with MDS upgrades

By Kevin Komiega

-- Cisco Systems is about to release a round of software upgrades for its MDS 9000 family of Multilayer Directors that improve data encryption and accelerate traffic over distances for IBM System z mainframe storage environments and open systems SANs.

For mainframes, Cisco is boosting the capabilities of the MDS 9000 to move data efficiently over WANs. Cisco and IBM have jointly developed Cisco XRC Acceleration, an application that pre-fetches data to increase the performance of IBM's z/OS Global Mirror mainframe-based disk replication software.

Cisco XRC Acceleration works with z/OS Global Mirror to move data up to 20,000km – roughly halfway around the globe – while improving bandwidth utilization and decreasing replication windows.

For backups and disaster recovery in the open systems world, Cisco is launching the Input/Output (I/O) Accelerator, a SAN-based fabric application that accelerates SCSI I/O and can be extended to either disk or tape, over any transport protocol regardless of the device location.

Cisco also increased the number of devices that can be managed by its SAN Fabric Manager switch discovery and monitoring tool. Each Fabric Manager node now has a capacity of 15,000 devices, and up to 10 nodes can be federated together for reporting purposes. The previous version of the software was limited to 10,000 devices per node.

In addition, Cisco added support for 8Gbps FICON channels on IBM's mainframe systems. Cisco is adding support for faster FICON channels as ESCON technology slowly fades away.

Bob Nusbaum, software product line manager in Cisco's storage networking business, says ESCON's days are numbered.

"The older ESCON protocol is on its way out the door. IBM is already reducing the number of ESCON channels you can put on a mainframe by about 75% and it will hit the ground soon thereafter. Customers are being advised to manage their infrastructures away from ESCON connections on the mainframe to alternatives such as FICON," he says.

Mainframe and open systems customers using Cisco's 8Gbps line cards can also now secure data through Cisco TrustSec Fibre Channel Link Encryption.

TrustSec FC Link Encryption can encrypt data on a per-port basis to protect information as it travels between data centers. Customers can also choose to deploy TrustSec FC Link Encryption within the data center so that all traffic between switches is encrypted. Both FICON and open systems data can be encrypted.

All of the upgrades are software-based and part of the Cisco NX-OS operating system. The bulk of Cisco's MDS product line is sold through storage manufacturers. Cisco will release its software updates in the coming days, marking the beginning of the OEM qualification cycle. End users can expect access to the software by year's end.

In related news, Cisco and IBM have expanded their OEM relationship to include Cisco's Nexus 5000 Series Ethernet switches. IBM announced last week that its Systems & Technology Group partners are now selling the Nexus 5000 family. The Nexus Series is comprised of high-performance, low-latency switches that support lossless 10GbE, Fibre Channel and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).

Related articles:
Cisco enters server fray with Unified Computing System
Cisco expands switch lineup
IBM expands storage networking partnerships, product lines

This article was originally published on July 27, 2009