Cisco gets ready for 64Gbit Fibre Channel

Cisco today announced MDS 9000 storage network director support for the coming 64Gbit/s Fibre Channel interface and NVMe-FC,. It has also added Ansible automation and end-to-end analytics across ihe 64/32Gbit/s Fibre Channel portfolio.

Cisco’s MDS 9000 is a set of storage networking devices ranging from switches to directors – central very large switches or directors which aggregate switch-level traffic. The products support 16 and 32Gbit/s Fibre Channel (FC), FICON mainframe access, iSCSI and FCoE across Ethernet and FCIP (Fibre Channel over IP) protocols.

MDS 9000 product range.

Preparing for gen 7 FC

Fibre Channel speeds are expected to double in the very near future. Enabling technologies include all-flash arrays and non-volatile memory express over fabrics (NVMe-over-Fabrics) using Fibre Channel as the carrier cable.

Cisco is announcing 64G-ready capabilities on the Cisco MDS 9700 platform, with support for NVMe and through that for all-flash arrays. The company will add 64gig FC line card support to the 9700s as a non-disruptive hardware upgrade along with a software upgrade and the products will then support 16, 32 and 64gig FC simultaneously.

The upgrade from gen 6 32Gbit/ to gen 7 64Gbit/s is imminent and  line card, host bus adapters and edge switches that support the new Fibre Channel standard could land by the end of the year. At that point central storage networking switches and directors will need to support the standard to provide an end-to end 64Gbit/s FC capability.

Each FC speed advance requires new hardware line cards and software added to the MDS products. Historically Cisco has been behind its main storage networking competitor Brocade, now owned by Broadcom, in introducing support for developing FC standards. It was about two years behind with 16Gbit/s FC and one year behind with 32Gbit/s FC. Now it is signalling it has caught up and will be ready with 64Gbit/s FC when the industry adopts it.

With this 9700 iteration it will be possible to run concurrent FC-SCSI and NVMe/FC workloads. Cisco believes NVMe/FC has lower hurdles for adoption than NVMe-oF using ROCE which requires data centre-class Ethernet.

Analytics and automation

Cisco has supported generic Ansible automation modules since 2017 to automate aspects of MDS operation. It is now adding specific SAN provisioning automation modules for Ansible, with VSAN, device-alias and zoning configuration automation facilities.

Ansible modules can be used to automate previous manual infrastructure procedures for provisioning compute, memory, network and storage arrays. This can reduce what previously could take hours or even days to less than a minute.