Cisco Unveils New SAN Tools to Connect with UCS Fabrics

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-01-14 Print this article Print

In one fell swoop, Cisco introduced a new Storage Services Node card, an I/O accelerator, a feature called Secure Erase and a newly packaged Data Mobility Manager appliance. With these new tools, IT and network managers can direct data traffic using any protocol from any node to any device within a Cisco fabric.

Cisco Systems on Jan. 14 introduced several new network-oriented hardware and software tools for its storage-area network product line that dovetail with the company's Unified Computing System development effort.

With these new tools, IT and network managers can direct data traffic using any protocol from any node to any device within a Cisco fabric.

"Cisco is leveraging what they know about the WAN optimization space into the network storage space," Bob Laliberte, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group who focuses on data center infrastructure management, told eWEEK.

In one fell swoop, Cisco introduced a new Storage Services Node card, an I/O accelerator, a feature called Secure Erase and a newly packaged Data Mobility Manager appliance. These are designed to attach to current storage networks to make them UCS-operable.

The Storage Services Node is a 16-port line card that enables Cisco's MDS 9000 Fibre Channel storage switches to become a platform for directing storage services to any device in the fabric.

The SSN-16 can run as many as four storage protocol streams (FC, IOA, SME and SANTap) at the same time, using up to-you guessed it-16 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

FC indicates Fibre Channel; SANTap is a proprietary Cisco protocol that enables transparent insertion of appliance-based storage applications; SME is a Linux-based, open-source server protocol; IOA signifies the standard Input/Output Adapter protocol.

The SSN-16 can run these four fabric-based SAN services, all used by Cisco in its routing and server products. The new card makes available network-based encryption of the data, I/O acceleration for faster backup and replication over a WAN, network extension using FCIP (Fibre Channel Internet Protocol) for connecting two or more fabrics over a WAN link, and secure data erasure.

"When all of these services are handled in single instances within the network, rather than in individual physical servers, suddenly the network becomes a unified fabric-combining the data flow for both storage and data transaction," Cisco Product Manager Bob Nusbaum told eWEEK.

Fewer Applications, Better Traffic Flow

Using only one instance of encryption functionality in the network smoothes out data storage traffic tremendously, Nusbaum said.

"The SAN fabric doesn't care whether host servers are using iSCSI, FCoE or native Fibre Channel," Nusbaum said. "The encrypter sees data as data from wherever it comes, does the encryption, and that's it. You don't need encryption on every server."

Same thing with I/O optimization and secure erasure of data, Nusbaum said.

"You might be surprised at how hard it is to truly delete data files, from servers, laptops and desktops and other devices," Nusbaum said. "This is a very secure way to completely eradicate unwanted data."

This is all part of Cisco's bigger-picture data center plan, a five-phase development effort called Services-Oriented SAN (SOS) that fits into the company's overall Data Center 3.0 strategy.

"Part of Cisco's strategy here is that they're saying, 'Hey, we used to have a [separate] card to do all these capabilities; now we can put it all onto one,'" Laliberte of ESG said.

Cisco also said it is repackaging its Data Mobility Manager (DMM) data migration software as an appliance. The new DMM is a Cisco MDS 9222i intelligent fabric switch combined with a software license. The package allows data migrations to be performed while live traffic is flowing, which eliminates downtime during the process.

Nusbaum said the company is marketing the DMM appliance at VARs and systems integrators so they can provide enhanced Cisco migration services for their customers.

Cisco's Network-Centric Approach

Cisco has never made any bones about its network-centric view of how data centers should be run.

"This is a really new platform for scaling storage services within a fabric [data center system]," Nusbaum said.

"Going forward, using the network itself as a delivery platform will be the most cost-effective way to deploy services as fabrics grow. Virtualization and unified fabrics are driving more traffic to the SAN. Network-based services help control virtual machine sprawl and ensure that SAN services won't be a gating factor to the adoption of these technologies."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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