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Cisco adds NVMe thus improving its Fibre Channel offerings

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April 11, 2017

Cisco has confirmed that it is adding NVMe over its Fibre Channel offerings. It's also adding 32 Gbit/s Fibre Channel speed to its MDS Director and UCS C-Series server products to speed things up.

Overall, Fibre Channel speeds have been doubling in the past few months, from 16 Gbit/s to 32 Gbit/s, what Brocade calls Generation 6 Fibre Channel.

Brocade launched its 32 Gbit/s Director product in July 2016, a Director being the largest kind of SAN access switch.

Atto, Brocade and QLogic have all announced 32 Gbit/s host bus adapters (HBAs) in March 2016, so Cisco had to do the same, the market being as competitive as it is.

Now Cisco has announced a 32 Gbit/s switching module for its 9700 MDS Director solution, the MDS 9700 48-port 32-Gbit/s Fibre Channel Switching Module to give it its full name.

Those modules have a built-in hardware-based analytics engine which registers every exchange sequence, and packet at line rate which Cisco claims enables real-time analytics of performance issues.

The 9700 series can have up to a 768 line-rate at 32 Gbit/s Fibre Channel ports capacity, with full-duplex aggregate performance of 1,536 Gbit/s.

Cisco says this means it works well with high-performance virtualized servers, all-flash arrays and non-volatile memory express (NVMe) arrays.

This is practical, as Pure Storage has one of these coming out very soon, we are told. Cisco’s updated director solution can work with 32 Gbit/s Broadcom/Emulex and Cavium/Qlogic Fibre Channel HBAs fitted to accessing servers, such as Cisco’s own UCS C-Series ones, to provide an end-to-end 32 Gbit/s Fibre Channel product.

The MDS storage director and UCS C-Series server also now support NVMe over Fibre Channel, with the Fibre Channel being the wire over which the NVMe protocol is carried out, thus providing low latency PCIe card-speed access to the SAN’s data.

For existing Fibre Channel-accessed SAN users, the opportunity to enjoy low latency NVMe access without needing to add an Ethernet or InfiniBand network to carry the RDMA traffic looks like a no-brainer upgrade.

With virtually every all-flash array supplier adding or promising to add NVMe over fabrics support to their arrays, then this NVMe over Fibre Channel capability means that the networking link with existing SANs should be ready for them.

NVMe over fabrics is supported on all current and future generations of MDS switches, including the MDS 9700 series, 9396-S, 9250-i and 9148-S. The NVMe support on these switches doesn’t need hardware changes, coming with a non-disruptive upgrade to NX-OS version 8.x.

Both the MDS 9700 and UCS C-Series products support NVMe and SCSI simultaneously over Fibre Channel and FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet).

The MDS 9700 32 Gbit/s modules and NVMe over Fibre Channel support will be available in the next few weeks. We don't have any pricing information for now.

Source: Cisco.


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