Cisco releases security, network convergence upgrades for storage switches

All storage protocol traffic can now move over LAN and SAN

Cisco today unveiled security and network convergence upgrades to its line of director-class data center switches, including a new multi-hop Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) capability for the Nexus 7000, 5000 and 3000 series and MDS 9500 switch family.

The data traffic unification features extend to Cisco's Unified Computing System, its Data Center Network Manager software and to NX-OS, the data center operating system that spans the company's data center portfolio of switches.

"You can think of them as Ethernet directors for iSCSI, network-attached storage and FCoE traffic," said Bob Nusbaum, product line manager for Cisco Storage Solutions.

Network administrators can now channel network-attached storage (NAS), iSCSI, Fibre Channel and Ethernet-based LAN traffic over the same network, Nusbaum said.

The network directors use converged network adapters (CNAs) from QLogic, which convert the Fibre Channel packets to IP packets at the host server level.

"What it really means is everything is integrating seamlessly," Nusbaum said. "It doesn't matter if you have pre-existing storage with a Fibre Channel network or new storage with FCoE. All of your host servers can come in with CNAs...or you can leave them with [host bus adapters] and they all get access to the same [backend] storage seamlessly."

Cisco also announced a new MDS 9000 Storage Media Encryption tool, which encrypts data whether it's being stored to disk or tape and requires no storage area network (SAN) reconfiguration.

Using an upgraded line card in the MDS 9000 series of switches, data can be encrypted as it's being written to disk storage subsystems; before, data was encrypted as it was being offloaded to tape archive systems. The user license for the encryption feature is the same as before, so there's no additional charge for the disk encryption feature, Nusbaum said. Encryption keys can be stored with Cisco Key Management Center tool or users can use RSA's key management feature.

The company said it has also completed the integration of its Data Center Network Manager software for SANs with VMware, allowing users a single view of their entire network infrastructure right down to virtual machine (VM) paths.

Cisco also announced a new Data Center Management API that allows third-party network management software to see traffic across Cisco's line of Unified Computer System (USC) blade servers and data center switches. For example, Cisco's hardware can now be viewed through Hewlett-Packard's OpenView, EMC's Ionix or IBM's Tivoli management sofwtware.

The Data Center Management (DCM) API works by using the Storage Networking Industry Association's Storage Management Initiative Standard (SMI-S), an XML-based messaging interface for unified management of heterogeneous storage systems.

"It's simply to let those other partner vendors manage us as part of their enterprise architecture," Nusbaum said.

Deb Howard, Cisco's data center solutions marketing manager, said 33 per cent of customers are now using FCoE on the Nexus 5000 series of switches. "I do believe customers were waiting for director class switches that are scalable, so I believe that number will start to bump up as we go forward," she said.

Cisco claims to have 10,000 customers using switches operating on its NX-OS software, which equates to seven million network ports on its Nexus line and about 4,000 customers using UCS systems and software that it launched two years ago.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

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