Cisco upgrades storage switches, adds SAN routing

Computerworld (US)

Cisco Systems Inc. this week said it has upgraded the software on its multiprotocol storage switches, adding features such as Ficon connectivity for mainframe users and support for routing data between remote storage-area networks.

Cisco said its MDS 9000 switches can now handle what it called “inter-VSAN routing,” which lets servers on different virtual SANs share disk arrays and tape libraries. The virtual SANs would remain separate from one another, but users would be able to transfer some data traffic between SANs without combining them into a single logical fabric, Cisco said.

The company added that the upgraded switches will also be able to use the Fibre Channel-over-IP (FCIP) protocol to do long-distance data replication to remote SANs for disaster recovery purposes.

IDC analyst Rick Villars said the new capabilities being offered by Cisco are significant in that they’re embedded in the MDS 9000 line’s software, instead of requiring users to install separate processing modules like they have to do with some rival switch products.

Priority Traffic

Rajeev Bhardwaj, product manager for the MDS 9000 line, said Cisco has also put quality-of-service controls in its switches. That allows storage managers to prioritize SAN traffic based on specific business requirements, such as putting transaction-processing database traffic ahead of backups.

Although quality-of-service policies are starting to take hold among storage managers, that capability will require cooperation between Cisco and vendors of host bus adapters and Fibre Channel adapters in order to work properly, Villars said.

Other new features in the SAN-OS 1.3 software include a server-based version of Cisco’s Fabric Manager network management tool that gives users central control of multiple SANs, plus support for standards such as the Common Information Model storage management interface and the Internet Storage Name Service protocol.

In addition, Cisco said the software upgrade adds support for intermixing open systems protocols like Fibre Channel, iSCSI and FCIP with IBM’s Ficon mainframe connectivity and control unit port management technologies on the same switch through the use of virtual SANs.

The new software is due for release within 60 days and will be available through disk array vendors such as EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Hitachi Data Systems Corp., which resell Cisco’s switches and rival devices.