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Cisco storage networking products get FCIP, FCoE upgrades

Cisco storage networking announced upgrades that include Ethernet boosts for FCIP and FCoE, but it's decided to hold off on shipping 32 GbE Fibre Channel.

Cisco is adding storage networking products and capabilities with a focus on bringing higher-bandwidth Ethernet into SANs.

Cisco today launched a Fibre Channel over Internet Protocol (FCIP) module for its FC SAN director platform and high-speed Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) support for its Nexus 9000 Series data center switches. It also added greater automation for storage management in its Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) software.

The Cisco storage networking launch did not include any 32 Gbps Fibre Channel upgrades; although, Cisco's main FC rival, Brocade, and FC adapter vendors are already shipping 32 Gbps products. Cisco said in February it would support 32 Gbps FC on its MDS 9718 director, but 32 Gbps line cards are not yet available, and it remains a 16 Gbps product.

Cisco storage networking IP gear gets bandwidth boost

Cisco's FCIP Module is a 24-port 16 Gbps FC, 10-port 10 Gb SAN extension module for the vendor's flagship Fibre Channel switch, the 768-port MDS 9700 Multilayer Director. Cisco plans to add two 40 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports to the module in 2017.

FCIP tunnels data between SANs over IP networks. It enables SAN-to-SAN replication across data centers over metropolitan area network and wide area network distance for disaster recovery and business continuity. Cisco previously supported FCIP services only on the 50-port MDS 9250i switch. The new module can be updated to future technologies by replacing line cards.

Cisco Nexus 9000 network switches now support 100 GbE FCoE to go with its previous 40 GbE support. The switch is also optimized for 100 GbE IP storage networking. The 100 GbE switching also includes 25 GbE and 50 GbE connectivity. Cisco sees 100 GbE IP storage as a good fit for interswitch links (ISLs), and it sees the 25 GbE and 50 GbE bandwidth as an improvement for server connectivity.

Customers with different storage array vendors have management platforms for each array, and it takes a lot of time for them to do all the work they need to provision storage.
Adarsh Viswanathansenior manager of product marketing, Cisco storage networking

Adarsh Viswanathan, senior manager of product marketing for Cisco storage networking, said traffic coming in from the Nexus 9000 can go to FC storage arrays, "connecting the Nexus 9000 architecture to legacy Fibre Channel storage infrastructure."

DCNM 10.1 combines SAN and LAN management into one application. Customers can use it for Cisco MDS and Nexus devices. The latest version automates storage functions, such as LUN and volume creation and zoning.

Viswanathan said the new version of DCNM enables admins to reduce complex storage tasks to a few clicks.

"We want to move DCNM SAN management toward a policy-driven deployment model for automation," he said. "Customers with different storage array vendors have management platforms for each array, and it takes a lot of time for them to do all the work they need to provision storage. We're trying to bring automated capabilities to DCNM to manage a storage array. "

32 Gb FC still part of Cisco storage networking strategy

Viswanathan said Cisco remains committed to 32 Gbps FC, but it won't gain mainstream adoption before late 2017. He said Cisco will likely bring out 32 Gbps line cards around the time storage array vendors support the bandwidth increase.

"Thirty-two Gig interfaces on storage arrays aren't there yet," he said. "The use case is interlink switching today, and we're offering 40-Gig [FCoE] ISLs."

Steven Hill, senior analyst for 451 Research, said he was surprised the Cisco storage networking upgrade did not include any 32 Gbps news. "Fibre Channel switching is a two-horse race, and Brocade seems to be dedicating more resources [to 32Gbps]," he said. "It will be interesting to see what Cisco does to counter that. I think Cisco wants to wait and see where it goes."

Hill said Cisco's push to 25/50/100 GbE provides a viable alternative to 10/40 GbE in large-scale deployments. "Once Cisco bites on it, it gives it more momentum," he said. "It's a megascale play, not a general enterprise play. You have to get new NICs [network interface cards] and new cabling to support it. But if you're building a massive data center based on one platform, it makes sense."

He said the FCIP upgrade to 40 Gbps provides a significant bandwidth boost. "If you want to utilize Fibre between geographic locations, quadrupling your bandwidth is a good idea," Hill said.

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