Cisco Unveils Next-Gen MDS SAN Director and Switch

By Pedro Hernandez

Cisco today announced the next generation of its SAN director and switching hardware, the MDS 9710 Multilayer Director and the MDS 9250iMultiservice Fabric Switch. The systems will underpin select SAN offerings from EMC, Hitachi Data Systems and Netapp, to name a few.

The aim, according to the IT networking giant, was to meld industry-leading performance, switching capacity and resiliency, plus ease of management, into a package that alleviates some of the thorniest data storage challenges faced by today's enterprises.

Storage area networks (SANs) are being burdened with massive data volumes along with virtual and application workloads that are clobbering the underlying networks that link storage infrastructures, claims Richard Darnielle, director of Product Management for Data Center Solutions at Cisco. Never mind the "the sheer number of moving parts of a network," factors like the "increased concentration of workloads" and "massive data growth," even the incorporation of solid-state drives (SSDs), are placing performance-robbing "stresses on individual links on a SAN," explained Darnielle -- to say nothing of the pressure put on storage administrators to keep it all together.

On the IT management front, Darnielle reported that by sticking with NX-OS, Cisco's "single operating system" approach to IT infrastructure management, the MDS line allows networking pros to hit the ground running. Not only is this strategy "low cost in training and operation," he added that NX-OS helps enable IT departments to "capture that operational efficiency that customers need in their journey to virtualization."

In terms of hardware, the MDS 9710 Multilayer Director, which has been "several years in the making," offers "three times the performance of any director that this industry has ever seen," boasted Darnielle. It supports both Fibre Channel (FC) and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), a multiprotocol scheme that encourages "customers to deploy FCoE where it makes sense and not force the customer to a fork in the road decision," he said.

Within a single 14 RU chassis, the MDS 9710 can accommodate up to 384 line-rate 16 GB FC ports or FCoE. All told, the hardware can deliver 24 Tbps of total FC switching capacity.

Redundancy features include redundant (N+1) switching fabrics, power supplies and fans along with non-disruptive software upgrades and grid redundancy capabilities. "If you lose a fabric card, you don't lose one packet," reported Darnielle.

Cisco's new MDS 9250i Multiservice Fabric Switch is flush with connectivity options. It features 40 16GB FC/FICON ports, 8 10GE FCoE connections and 2 1/10GE FCIP/iSCSI ports. Supported storage services include Cisco I/O accelerator, Data Mobility Manager and SAN Extension, a WAN-enabled data protection foundation based on Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) tunneling.

Cisco MDS 9710 Multilayer Director is available now. The MDS 9250i Multiservice Fabric Switch is set for a third quarter release.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

This article was originally published on April 24, 2013