Data Center Storage Area Networks (SAN) need to evolve to keep up with increasing application workload availability and performance requirements. NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is a key technology that will help accelerate existing applications as well as enable new applications optimized for performance and latency in data centers and at the cloud edge. For the SAN to keep pace with the latest application needs, Cisco’s new 64-Gbps line rate, 48-port MDS switch module provides the necessary performance level for connecting NVMe, flash, and legacy disk storage to applications running in the data center and cloud edge.

Cisco introduces a range of innovations to help customers adopt and evolve their SAN:

  • Cisco MDS 9700
    • Cisco MDS 9700 48-Port 64-Gbps line-rate multi-speed Fibre Channel Switching Module
    • Multi-Generation and Multi-Speed support providing interoperability of existing 16G, 32G, and new 64G line cards in existing chassis for graceful migration and expansion
    • Re-use of all existing Cisco FC optics across existing and new ports
    • Slow-Drain Prevention with Dynamic Ingress Rate Limiting​ (DIRL)
    • NVMe enhanced FC analytics
  • Cisco SAN Insights Discovery

With this new offering, SAN teams do not have to choose between deploying a 64G capable infrastructure or leveraging their existing storage investment. Cisco is staying true to its long-standing promise to customers to increase value of the existing SAN infrastructure verses forcing a chassis upgrade and a replacement of optics.

Cisco MDS 9700 Directors Support Multiple Speeds and Storage I/O in the Same Chassis

The Cisco MDS 9700 Directors now support a new 48-port 64Gbps line rate switch module with non-blocking I/O. Bonus! The multi-speed and multi-protocol Director Switch supports the new 64-Gbps line cards along with existing Fibre Channel and FCIP line cards. The Directors are online field upgradable to eliminate downtime. The 64-Gbps line cards have a highly efficient design with a new chipset for low power consumption and enhanced on-chip Fibre Channel Analytics processing and a dedicated analytics NPU engine. This design provides more efficient analytics—with higher metrics collection including NVMe flows—while having minimal impact on I/O, thus delivering always-on SAN Analytics for storage traffic in real-time.

Accelerating SAN Performance with Congestion Management and Prevention

What’s the point of having a high-speed freeway for SAN traffic if points of congestion cause backups and longer wait times? Slow-drain congestions are one of the main reasons for SAN performance degradation. Now with faster NVMe arrays and higher Fibre Channel speed mismatches with mixed 16G, 32G, and 64G channels, it is important to control the slow-drain congestion at end devices. However, IT requires control of congestion to be non-disruptive. To solve this challenge, Cisco introduces Dynamic Ingress Rate Limiting (DIRL), the industry’s first Host Bus Adapter (HBA)-independent Slow-Drain Prevention technology. DIRL manages the rate limit at ingress of the switch, independent of HBA and or HBA firmware. It’s like switching on an on-ramp traffic meter to control how much and how quickly traffic can enter a highway to minimize congestion.

SANs Slow Lane Congestion Management

DIRL is an agentless, fabric-centric approach that is compatible with hosts and targets of any vendor and any generation. DIRL is controlled and governed by the embedded intelligence of MDS 9000 devices. The DIRL mitigation technique ensures that only a misbehaving device is managed without removing it from the network. Other devices sharing the same network are not affected. DIRL is the next-gen solution for accelerating and managing SAN performance in heterogeneous storage environments.

SAN Insights Discovery: Cloud-Based Health Check Tool

To maintain the health of a SAN, IT needs insights into inventory, health, performance, and support compliance to quickly and easily understand the current status and overall fitness of the fabric. Cisco SAN Insights Discovery is a free cloud-based tool that provides health information and insights into potential SAN fabric issues that can be addressed before they cause problems. The tool can be used with both Cisco MDS and third-party Fibre Channel fabrics to gain fabric-level health information such as:

  • Fabric and switch level inventory and utilization information​
  • Reports to identify and compare changes within the fabric​​
  • Support for compliance information
  • Information to assist in migrating to the next generation 64-Gbps solution
Cisco SANs Insight Discovery
Cisco SANs Insight Discovery

The Cisco SAN Insights Discovery tool provides a safe and secure way to provide IT with a SAN Fabric Health Assessment.

Cisco SAN Insights Discovery Fabric Overview
Cisco SAN Insights Discovery Fabric Overview

Cisco introduces a range of innovations to help IT adapt and evolve their SAN to meet the needs of applications, provide better full stack observability, and maintain operational consistency.

In short, Cisco delivers on its promise: 64G Fibre Channel Done Right.

For additional details on Cisco SANs:


Thomas Scheibe

Vice President, Product Management

Cloud Networking