Cisco expands Fibre Channel line

Cisco Systems Inc. is expected to introduce two Fibre Channel switches this week that will give users more choices for expanding the size of their storage-area networks.

At Storage Decisions 2003, the company will announce the MDS 9100 series, which consists of two rack-mountable 1U, 2G bit/sec Fibre Channel switches available in 20- and 40-port models. The 9120 and 9140 Multilayer Intelligent fabric switches are installed between smaller Cisco SN5428 Storage Routers residing on the edge of the network and midrange 16 to 40 port MDS 9216 Multilayer switches or MDS 9500 director-level switches located in the data center.

“One of the advantages of these switches over a director-level switch is that they let me save money and buy switches that are closer to edge-switch pricing,” says Barry Brazil, enterprise architect for Reliant Energy, an energy company in Houston.

“The Cisco MDS 9100s are great switches for workgroups as well as departmental storage,” Brazil says. “For instance, we have a couple of sites that hang off our dense wave division multiplexing ring where it wouldn’t be prudent to put a director-level switch. When you are talking about ancillary storage, it’s a good idea to put in switches of this size and save money on port cost.” Brazil has both McData Corp. Intrepid Directors and Cisco MDS 9500 director-level switches installed.

The MDS 9120 and 9140 are similar to Brocade Communications’ 16- to 32-port Silkworm 3800 and 3900 and McData’s 24- to 32-port Sphereon 4500 and 3232. Cisco differentiates them from other switches, however, in their ability to be managed by much the same software Cisco users employ for the company’s network routers and switches.

Management of the MDS 9100 is integrated with CiscoWorks and has a Cisco IOS-like command-line interface. In addition, with free software Cisco includes with its Fibre Channel switches, customers can partition SANs into configurations resembling virtual LANs for security purposes.

The MDS 9100 switches are expected to start at about US$29,000 and be available later this month.