First, why the buzz around all-flash arrays?

Digital transformation presents both a challenge and an opportunity to modernize IT infrastructure, and storage is no exception to the growing demand for application speed and performance. Across the industry, application proliferation is driving investment in all-flash storage systems. What’s more, these solutions are more economically viable than ever.

But that’s only one side of the story. Maximizing benefit and realizing ROI on flash investments requires at least 32G network speeds from your SAN switching infrastructure. With this in mind, if you’re thinking of spinning up an NVMe over Fibre Channel strategy, the time is now!

IBM announces FlashSystem 9200

On February 11, 2020, IBM announced the availability of their FlashSystem storage models to accelerate workloads, deliver cloud-based analytics, and proactively manage storage. These systems are designed to meet modern high-performance storage requirements such as ultra-low latency, cost-effectiveness, operational efficiency, and mission-critical reliability. Built on a flash-optimized design with an end-to-end NVMe strategy, IBM FlashSystems deliver extremely low latencies to multicloud environments. By combining IBM Spectrum Virtualize, the Cisco MDS 9000 family of products and IBM FlashCore technologies with innovative, flexible, and powerful NVMe storage, these systems can help transform infrastructure efficiency.

Read the full announcement

A note on IBM and Cisco partnership: Since the start of our partnership in 2018, Cisco and IBM have brought innovative SAN solutions to market that address some of our customer’s most complex challenges. IBM c-type switches offer the industry’s first and only integrated, native, line-rate storage traffic analytics on 32G ports. They provide highly reliable switching performance and highly available component design that are a testament to that partnership. In addition, the c-type switches provide lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and investment protection by enabling non-disruptive, cost-effective transition to Fibre Channel speed upgrades and NVMe-FC, while promoting operational simplicity by bringing programmability, analytics, manageability, and visibility to the SAN.

How can FlashSystem prepare you to support digital transformation and stay competitive?

Applications continue to exert tremendous pressure on SAN infrastructure. To keep up and stay competitive, customers are looking to invest in higher performing storage and storage networking. As discussed earlier, combining the economic viability of all-flash arrays and the technological advancement of NVMe over FC (like that announced by IBM), there has never been a more compelling opportunity to upgrade SAN infrastructure with investment protection and support for 64G Fibre Channel performance.

Here are some questions to consider before making such a strategic investment:

  1. Will the new SAN infrastructure support NVMe?
  2. Is it 64G FC ready?
  3. Is there any real-time deep packet visibility—or SAN analytics—for monitoring, diagnostics, and troubleshooting?
  4. Is there a need to “RIPlace” existing infrastructure? Is it potentially disruptive ?

Let’s address a few of these very critical points briefly.

Support for NVMe-FC

This is the most common top-of-mind question from customers regarding future SAN investments. The short answer is yes, Cisco MDS does support NVMe-FC. In addition, the support is transparent–no additional hardware or commands are needed to enable it. Any current 16G or 32G Cisco MDS 9700 module or any current selling 16G or 32G FC fabric switch using new NX-OS 8.x release supports it. There is no additional license needed and no additional features to enable identification of NVMe commands. Cisco MDS 9000 can unleash the performance of NVMe arrays over FC or FCoE transport, connected to SCSI or NVMe initiators or targets, concurrently, across the same SAN.

To learn more about NVMe and NVMe over Fibre Channel, explore the solution overview. .

To learn more about optimizing your SAN with the latest innovations, watch the on-demand webinar.

64G readiness

With the introduction of the new Cisco MDS Supervisor-4 and Fabric-3 modules, MDS 9700 Director switches are now 64G ready. They also provide investment protection for customers purchasing and using the 9700 directors with 32G line cards and optics today. While the IBM FlashSystem storage models are 32G capable today, there is peace of mind knowing your SAN infrastructure investment is equipped for future 64G models. This translates to tremendous CapEx savings; not to mention the benefits derived from maintaining continuity in application delivery.

SAN Insights: Stop the blame game

In today’s day and age, the success of modern business is directly proportional to the successful delivery of their applications. When applications stop working the blame game begins. Is it the network? Is it the application itself? How about storage ? It does not have to be this way. In 2018, Cisco introduced SAN Insights: an embedded FC-NVMe telemetry on the 32G port ASICs. SAN Insights with Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) gives us greater visibility across the SAN fabric for troubleshooting and diagnostics. This capability exists on both the 32G fabric switches as well as the 32G line cards in the MDS 9700. Customers deploying all-flash arrays into legacy 2/4/8G FC environments are at the greatest risk for performance problems–often times referred to as the “slow drain” issue. SAN Insights can help quickly identify the problem and resolve it.

To learn more about SAN Insights, watch the on-demand webinar.

A common management platform for your SAN and LAN infrastructure

Applications rule the world. There is no other way around it. Having a centralized LAN/SAN management platform for the entire network infrastructure lets businesses focus on creating innovative applications rather than managing the infrastructure supporting them. Cisco Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) is the network management platform for all NX-OS-enabled deployments—spanning new fabric architectures, IP Fabric for Media, and storage networking deployments for the Cisco Nexus-powered data center.  DCNM empowers IT to move at the increasing speed of business by providing complete automation, extensive visibility, and consistent operations for the data center.

Learn more about Cisco Data Center Network Manager.


Modern applications demand data centers that deliver a superior experience to all environments, support future performance beyond the current architecture, and provide investment protection for the foreseeable future. The combination of IBM storage systems and Cisco MDS 9000 enables the scale, performance, visibility and operational excellence needed for efficient deployment of all your next-generation workloads.

Learn more about Cisco storage networking solutions.



Neeraj Dhulekar

Product Marketing Manager

Enterprise Solutions - Data Center Marketing