Cisco consolidates data storage services; launches data migration appliance

With an eye on consolidation and storage integrators, Cisco places I/O acceleration, encryption, data erasure and SAN extension on one card and launches data migration appliance.

Cisco Systems Inc. today released the 16-Port Storage Services Node, a new line card that supports up to four data storage services, as well as a Data Mobility Manager data migration appliance as part of a services-oriented storage-area network (SAN) strategy.

Cisco has been pushing consolidation around Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), but in this case is consolidating services in line cards used in its MDS Fibre Channel director switches.

The 16-Port Storage Services Node is a 16-port line card that plugs into MDS 9000 chasses. Supported applications include I/O Accelerator, Storage Media Encryption, Secure Erase and SAN Extension over Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) capabilities.

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I/O Accelerator reduces bandwidth requirements when backing up or replicating over the metropolitan-area network (MAN) and wide-area network (WAN), similar to Cisco's Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) platform. The data encryption service encrypts data on tape; Secure Erase copies data off of disk array logical unit numbers (LUNs) so they can be re-allocated or decommissioned; and the SAN Extension feature connects multiple fabrics over a FCIP WAN link.

Cisco is also launching a Data Mobility Manager that moves data between disk arrays from different vendors.

The new cards and appliance don't break any new ground for functionality. Cisco is consolidating those services on one card and trying to give integrators and service providers tools for managing data migrations. Cisco rival Brocade Communications Systems Inc. has been pushing SAN services for years.

Cisco maintains that putting the services in the storage network fabric is less expensive than offering them in the array and doesn't use up CPU cycles as they would if they were host-based. Bob Nusbaum, product line manager for Cisco storage solutions, said the cards work with any speed Fibre Channel or Ethernet ports.

"When the service lives in the fabric, speeds and feeds become irrelevant," he said.

The Data Mobility Manager appliance is a Cisco MDS 9222i intelligent switch with a license for its existing DMM software. Nusbaum said the appliance is aimed at integrators and service providers who can use it to migrate data from a customer's old storage array to a new array after a sale. "The functionality is not new," he said. "What's new is that we have a new form factor for making it available."

Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), said the new services card fit into Cisco's consolidation strategy.

"Cisco's talking about unified fabrics in the broader sense, trying to put these services into a core Fibre Channel SAN, which isn't going away anytime soon," he said. "If FCoE starts taking hold, you'll have FCoE in the top of the rack feeding into the core Fibre Channel SAN. They're trying to make these [Fibre Channel] services more efficient. Instead of four separate cards, there is one card that has four services."

Nusbaum said some of Cisco's storage OEM partners are already selling the Storage Services Node card, and others are qualifying it. He didn't say which partners are selling it, but representatives from EMC Corp. and Hitachi Data Systems are quoted in Cisco's product information. Cisco declined to make any pricing information public, but Nusbaum said the Data Migration Manager is priced about the same as an MDS 9222i switch.

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