Cisco releases two new Cisco MDS 32G switches with 48- and 96-port
Oftentimes, storage engineers don’t need the full resiliency and density of a director class switch. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of SAN ports and they are serving up storage connectivity for tier-one applications such as back-end databases, your first thought should be a director class switch. Sometimes there isn’t a requirement for that many ports or level of resiliency. This may be the case, for instance, in a remote location with just a few hosts and one or two storage arrays, a self-contained pod environment or a stand-a-lone test environment.
What’s the difference between Director Class and Departmental Switches?
Director class switches are more expensive for two primary reasons: 1. They are built to scale up to hundreds of ports by simply adding additional blades into a six-, 10- or 18-slot classis (two slots are reserved for supervisor cards which do the management) and, 2. They can withstand multiple component failures and still remain up and running in a degraded state making them fault tolerant. It’s not unusual to have a director class switch that’s been operational over 1000+ days, and most are never brought down until they get replaced to support a new switch generation. Because Cisco supports future generations of Fibre Channel (FC) line cards as well as the ability to mix and match generations of line cards in the same 9700 chassis, it means they could be fully operational with no downtime for over 10 years.
Departmental switches are smaller (1 or 2U versus 9-26U for director class switches), and have a fixed number of ports. In terms of resiliency level, they will typically survive a single failure (e.g. a power supply or fan goes out), but they will not remain operational with multiple failures of the same component. They also have a single switching component versus the several switching modules on a director class switch. Lastly, when a new generation of FC comes out, the only way to move to that new generation with a departmental switch is to replace the switch itself, unlike a director class switch where blades can be swapped out. Aside from these differences, general functionality is very similar.
What’s New with Cisco’s Departmental Switches?
Cisco’s first 32Gb departmental switch released was the 9132T (capable of 32 ports), which was great for shops needing a smaller switch capable of doing 32Gb, but it left a gap for use cases needing more than 32 capable ports because the next sized switch, which was a director class switch, jumped up to 192 ports.
Hence, it wasn’t a surprise when Cisco followed up with the 9148T and the 9396T as those products provide a middle ground with 48 and 96 ports respectively. Customers (and partners like WWT) are excited about these new products, as they fill the gap in the departmental switch line and provide better options for customers needing a middle ground option.
These new switches also bring some new functionality that customers should check out. First, the analytic features that comes with the 32Gb MDS release, and something brand new with these switches called “Auto-Zoning” where newly added hosts and storage can be configured to automatically zone to speed up server deployment time.
Good things have come to those who wait. And, the wait is over!
To continue the conversation about this new release, visit the comment section of this article. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Author’s note: To learn more about Cisco’s new SAN offerings, check out this article on Cisco’s website.