Virtualization on tap from Brocade, Cisco

FRAMINGHAM (10/24/2003) – Virtualization of storage resources will be a focus of Storage Networking World next week as Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. introduce Fibre Channel switches that let customers simplify management through applications that pool, replicate and back up data.

Brocade is expected to demonstrate replication, data migration and virtual tape back-up capability for its Silkworm Fabric Application Platform AP7420 Fibre Channel switch and increased functionality for its Silkworm 12000 director-level switch. Cisco and IBM will show off a new product bundle consisting of the Cisco MDS 9000 MultiLayer Intelligent SAN director running IBM Corp.’s TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller virtualization software.

Customers are applauding the move toward virtualization.

“Virtualization provides us the ability to manage multiple devices from one interface,” says Jay Morgan, storage manager for SafeLite AutoGlass in Columbus, Ohio, which is testing virtualization on a Cisco MDS 9000 switch. “It also lets us manage the storage from multiple vendors, and add and manage cheap, capacity-oriented drives or tape drives in the same environment. We plan on using virtualization to do virtual tape and replication.”

Previously, applications such as virtualization, replication and volume management ran on host computers or arrays where their ability to manage all the servers and storage devices on the storage-area network (SAN) was limited to certain vendors’ storage devices or operating systems.

Vendors such as Falconstor and DataCore have appliances that attach to the Fibre Channel fabric to host these applications and manage a variety of server operating systems and storage gear. At the show, vendors such as Brocade, Cisco and McData are expected to follow through on their promise of technology that lets applications be placed on the Fibre Channel switch, where they can manage all the servers and storage connected to them and not introduce new hardware into the fabric.

Brocade is scheduled to demonstrate replication capability for its 16-port Silkworm Fabric Application Platform AP7420 switch using software from start-up Kashya. The technology, which the company says will be available next year, automatically performs replication and recovery of data based on policies set regarding the size of the pipe and the amount of latency allowed. The technology also will be introduced as a module for the Silkworm 12000 in the first half of 2004.

Brocade is expected to show off data migration services from start-up Incipient running on the AP7420, which lets users migrate data between different storage systems without disrupting it.

Brocade also will demonstrate the capability of its Silkworm Fabric Application Platform AP7420 hardware to perform backups to a virtualized group of RAID arrays and Just a Bunch of Disks instead of to tape, using software from start-up Alacritus.

The company also is set to introduce an option for replication over any distance using CNT’s UltraNet Edge Storage Router, which allows remote Fibre Channel or Fibre Connection disk mirroring and storage-area network (SAN) interconnection over IP, ATM or SONET networks.

It also is expected to announce as soon as next week new circuitry for its Silkworm 12000 director-level switch that simplifies its management capability. Current Silkworm 12000s are split into two management domains, each consisting of 64 ports. The new circuitry will let all 128 ports be included in the same domain.

Gary Pilafas, senior storage/systems architect for United Airlines Loyalty Services in Chicago, is looking forward to using Brocade’s single-domain Silkworm 12000.

“When Brocade introduces its single-domain 12000, I’m going to (convert my switches) to that,” Pilafas says. “I can then have one domain with 128 ports. Today I have to have two domains for each Silkworm 12000 switch logically and do trunking from Side A to Side B. With two domains in the switch, you have to have trunks and you lose four ports on each side. At US$2,000 per port, that’s US$16,000 I’ll save.”

The company also is expected to introduce a 256-port director-level switch by year-end.

Cisco’s and IBM’s package lets users administer applications such as point-in-time copy, replication or volume management across a heterogeneous SAN from an MDS 9000 director-level switch.

Using the package, IT administrators will be able to pool the data on disparate storage systems into logical pools, where further management or provisioning can take place without taking any of the servers or storage offline. Cisco has developed a Caching Services Module that hosts the SAN Volume Controller software. This module, which has 8G bytes of memory and is hot-swappable and redundant, fits in the Cisco MDS 9500 directors or the MDS 9216 fabric switch. It replaces the SAN Volume Controller running on an IBM eServer xSeries server introduced earlier this year. The IBM SAN Volume Controller for Cisco MDS 9000, which consists of two Caching Services Modules and software, is expected to be available in December for US$112,000.