In this series of blogs, we are trying to discuss some of the unique advantages of Cisco MDS 9000 series switches across the Fibre Channel industry. In the first blog, we talked about NVMe/FC support in Cisco MDS 9000 Series Multilayer Switches. Now, let’s talk about investment protection.

Investment protection is usually discussed as a business advantage. But I am not going to talk about only money savings, but also about easing the technical and operational pain the customer endures because of the complex chassis forklifting as well.

Cisco MDS 9700 Multilayer Director class switches carry on the legacy of investment protection that the Cisco MDS 9500 class of directors were originally founded on. The legacy that started with the MDS 9500 platform in 2002 continues with the MDS 9700 platform, launched in Apr 2013.

Cisco MDS 9500 Series Multilayer Directors had three models to match up with different port density requirements. Cisco MDS 9509, launched in 2002, had capacity for 224 Fibre Channel (FC) ports; Cisco MDS 9506, launched in 2003, for 128 FC ports; and Cisco MDS 9513, launched in 2006, for 528 FC ports.  The total active life span (sales announcement to end of support) of MDS 9506 was 17 years, MDS 9509 was ~19 years, and MDS 9513 was ~16 years.

With an operational life span of nearly 19 years, the Cisco MDS 9500 went through three speed upgrades from 1G/2G  4G  8G FC speed, using new modules simultaneously in the same chassis. Additionally, we upgraded from Supervisor-1 to Supervisor-2 to Supervisor-2A modules to enhance the scalability required by customer data center environments. More importantly, all of these changes were done without any disruption.

Fast forward to April 2013: The Cisco MDS 9710 Multilayer Director was launched, supporting 48 ports of line-rate performance at 16G FC speed per module, followed by MDS 9706 and MDS 9718.

Say Hi to 2017 and the same chassis (Cisco MDS 9700) is ready to support 32G FC speed at line-rate performance. Additionally, new software features like SCSI and NVMe Analytics, anti-counterfeit security, improved scalability, enhanced redundancy, and high availability were also introduced in this platform.

Today, we are now talking about 64G FC speeds and NVMe based fabrics. Again, the same chassis – Cisco MDS 9700 series directors are now 64G FC ready. The recently launched new supervisor-4 modules and fabric-3 modules provide the capability to provide 64G FC performance in the future. So, the chassis you buy today is ready to drive the SAN with optimal speed of 64G FC because the back plane is ready. That’s adding almost a decade long life in already ~8 year old chassis.

So, if we look at Cisco’s SAN investment in the MDS 9700 series platform in the pictures below, shows the commitment of Cisco towards the Fibre Channel industry with continuous hardware and software innovation, through three generations speed (16G, 32G and 64G), along with Cisco NX-OS software from the 6.x to 7.x to 8.x releases.


Figure 1. Hardware innovation


Figure 2. Software innovation

Now, the question is – where is the investment protection we are talking about?

To understand that, let’s look at this example.

CapEx investment needed for customers using Cisco MDS 9700 series directors:

CapEx investment needed for non-Cisco customers (with every speed upgrade):

Note:  New chassis = New (Chassis + Supervisor modules + Fabric Modules + Line cards) + new switch license(s) + new management software license(s) + Components (SFPs, Cables, etc.) and so on… an abscess drainage procedure but pus is replaced with money in this case.

And it does not stop here.

  • Ask the DC architects how much planning goes in for chassis upgrade (airflow, space, power, etc.)
  • Ask the engineer on the data center floor for the amount of efforts required to rack and stack new chassis (new cables, new SFPs, new airflow directions, new power requirements, and the downtime to physically swap the chassis). And if something goes haywire during this chassis swap (Murphy’s Law), a simple 15-minute outage means millions of dollars lost in revenue.

This is where the Cisco MDS 9700 Series Multilayer Directors continue their technical innovation to maintain feature superiority, in both directions – hardware and software.

This is how hundreds of Cisco MDS 9500 directors are still running nonstop for more than 10 years.

This is how hundreds of Cisco MDS 9700 directors are running nonstop for more than 5 years.

And finally, this is how YOU, the customer, can save millions of dollars by investing in the Cisco MDS 9700 series director class switches.

In short, Cisco MDS 9700 Series directors are future ready today.

So, happy investing 😉 and see you soon with next blog in this series with another such unique, innovative advantage of Cisco MDS SAN product portfolio.



Bhavin Yadav

Technical Leader

Data Center SAN Switching