Cisco Systems Inc. last week rolled out its first enterprise storage switches, but it could be awhile before the networking vendor wins over users, said some enterprise IT managers.
The San Jose, Calif., company has to contend with established competitors Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and McData Corp. In addition, storage switch interoperability is difficult because of issues such as firmware.
While users and analysts are enthusiastic about an established company supplying both data and storage networking infrastructures, they plan to wait to see if Cisco provides enough cost savings, products and support before replacing existing products.
John Studdard, chief technology officer of FirstVirtual Inc.s VirtualBank division, said his data resides on an EMC Corp. storage area network and travels between two data centers and remote offices over Cisco asynchronous transfer mode connections. Once EMC certifies the new Cisco switches, Studdard said hed buy one if it proved to be a better technology.
"What I have now works and works well," said Studdard, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. "Just because Cisco jumped into this doesnt mean Im going to go rip out my Connetrix switches [made by Brocade and sold under the EMC brand]. I dont want to go tinkering with that unnecessarily. I dont want to complicate my maintenance and support with EMC just to wheel in the Cisco name."
However, Studdard said he expects that Ciscos presence will force improvements in the quality of storage switch products from the major players.
Another issue Cisco will face is that Brocade and McData "know how to talk storage to the storage networking people," said Dianne McAdam, an analyst with Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, N.H. "I think theyre going to make inroads, but its going to take awhile. Were probably a year away."
Ciscos new series, the MDS, or Multilayer DataCenter Switch, comprises the entry-level, 16-port MDS 9216; the midrange, 128-port 9506; and the high-end, 224-port MDS 9509 and 256-port 9513 models. Each will support 2G-bps host bus adapters when shipments begin by years end, plus virtualization and eight-port iSCSI plug-in cards in the first half of next year, officials said. The MDS 9216 starts at $30,000, and the MDS 9500 series will start at $2,500 to $3,000 per port, officials said.
Cisco plans to include software for backup, data management, mirroring, multicasting, replication and security. An API will be made public, and support for Common Information Model and the Bluefin protocol, which are evolving standards for storage interoperability, will come in a software upgrade next year, officials said.
"We started to think about storage two years ago. Our vision was an evolution to be a more important element to the network," said Luca Cafiero, senior vice president and general manager of Ciscos Switching, Voice and Storage Group.
Cisco announced IP storage routers in April last year, but the MDS-series models, developed by Cisco investment Andiamo Systems Inc., are its first mainstream Fibre Channel units.
"The difficulty for us at this point is that we have a very nice product on paper, [but] I feel comfortable that, at the moment, we are capable" of executing it, Cafiero said.