Cisco aims for SAN switching arena with Andiamo buy

Cisco Systems Inc. jumped into the storage area network (SAN) switching arena last month when it announced its acquisition of Andiamo Systems and its line of new fibre channel SAN switches known as the Multi-layer DataCenter Switches (MDS) 9000 family.

While Cisco’s purchase of Andiamo won’t be finalized until the third quarter of the 2004 fiscal year, under the agreement Cisco is the exclusive manufacturer and of all Andiamo’s products, including the MDS 9000 family.

It consists of the MDS 9500 series of multi-layer directors and the MDS 9216 multi-layer fabric switch.

The MDS 9500 director series is fully modular – there are three director switches: a six-slot, a nine-slot and a 13-slot.

“Fully modular means that any of the modules in the 9000 family can go into any of those slots,” said Jackie Ross, vice-president of marketing for Andiamo.

“And then you have the modules themselves,” she added. “And the modules consist of a 16-port fibre channel module, a 32-port fibre channel module and an 8-port IP services module that the user can configure to be either iSCSI of FCIP.”

Multi-protocol support is just one of the multi-layer intelligence features these switches offer; fibre channel, iSCSI and fibre channel over IP (FCIP) are all supported.

Ross also said these switches have redundancy of all the major components within the switch, such as dual power supplies and dual fans.

The MDS 9216 Multi-layer Fabric Switch is the industry’s first modular fabric switch, said Ross. “Typically the port count on a fabric switch has been eight or 16 ports. You buy it, and you can’t do anything about configuring it.

“What you get with the 9216 is a switch that has a fixed configuration of 16 fibre channel ports, but it also has an open slot. That open slot can take a 16-channel fibre module for a total of 32 ports or it could take a 32-port fibre channel module for a total of 48. Or it could take an IP services (iSCSI or FCIP) module.”

In addition, Cisco’s MDS 9000 family offers intelligent network services such as traffic management, security and integrated diagnostics that have similar levels of network scalability and resiliency as Cisco’s IP networking components.

“Andiamo’s products [the MDS 9000 family] are designed for high-end storage applications, while Cisco’s IP storage products are targeted at mid-range storage applications for enterprise departments/workgroups and small/medium businesses,” said Dan Scheinman, senior vice-president of Cisco corporate development in a statement.

“Andiamo’s multi-protocol support provides easy integration with Cisco’s IP storage networking products,” he added.

Having many of the same features as Cisco’s IP routers, they will be managed with simple network management protocol (SNMP) and use Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) authentication, and support the same language and syntax the Cisco Internet Operating System command-line interface uses.

To address security the MDS 9000 family supports hardware enforced zoning and logic unit number (LUN) masking. It also supports role-based access control and access control lists, Secure Shell, Secure File Transfer Protocol, and vSANs.

Included with shipment will be the Cisco Fabric Manager, Java-based management software that supports both fabric-wide and switch-level features such as topology discovery, fabric configuration and verification, monitoring and fault resolution.

Shipping will also include a Cisco IOS-like CLI and an open API to help customers achieve a unified management infrastructure.

Competing for the top spot with large SAN switching heavyweights such as Brocade and McData, Cisco’s MDS 9000 switch technology was acquired along with its acquisition of San Jose-based Andiamo.

According to the Gartner Group, the SAN switching market is supposed to grow from about US$1.2 billion in 2002 to US$4.3 billion in 2006.

Cisco CEO John Chambers said it’s striving to become number one or number two in the SAN market and Alan Freedman, an analyst at Toronto-based IDC Canada Inc. said that Cisco is primed to do well in that market.

“Cisco is usually highly regarded in terms of customer satisfaction,” said Freedman. “So if people are happy with Cisco, with the network infrastructure they’re already buying from them, it bodes well for Cisco to make their mark [in the SAN switching market].”

“The benefits for Cisco are that they’ll be playing in a more tried and tested marketplace with fibre channel, whether it’s IP-based or iSCSI based. People are more familiar with the fibre channel interconnect rather that straight IP, like most of Cisco’s other switches. So this gives them a footprint in a more established market.”

Pricing starts at US$29,995. The MDS 9509 Multi-layer Director, the MDS 9216 Fabric Switch, and the 16- and 32-port Fibre Channel Switching Modules will be available in the fourth quarter of 2002.

The MDS 9506, 9513, and the eight-port MDS 9000 IP Storage Module will be available in the first half of 2003.

For more information see San Jose-based Cisco’s Web site at

– With files from IDG News Service