Cisco Blogs

Introducing MDS 9710 Multilayer Director and MDS 9250i Multiservice Switch – Raising the Bar for Storage Networks

April 24, 2013 - 13 Comments

The data center landscape has changed dramatically in several dimensions. Server virtualization is almost a defacto standard with a big increase in VM density. And there is a move towards world of many clouds.  Then there is the massive data growth. Some studies show that data is doubling in every 2 years while there is an increased adoption of solid-state drives (SSD).   All of these megatrends demand new solutions in the SAN market.  To meet these needs, Cisco’s introducing the next generation Storage Network innovations with the new MDS 9710 Multilayer Director and new MDS 9250i Multiservice Switch.  These new multi-protocol, services-rich MDS innovations redefine storage networking with superior performance, reliability and flexibility!

We are, once again, demonstrating Cisco’s extraordinary capability to bring to market innovations that meet our customer needs today and tomorrow.  

For example, with the new MDS solutions, we are announcing 16 Gigabit Fibre Channel (FC) and 10 Gigabit Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) support. But guess what? This is just couple of the many innovations we are introducing.  In other words, we bring 16 Gigabit FC and beyond to our customers:


We design our solutions with future requirements in mind. We want to create long term value for our customers and investment protection moving forward.

The switching fabric in the MDS 9710 is one example of this design philosophy. The MDS 9710 chassis can accommodate up to six fabric cards delivering:

  • 1.536 Tbps per slot for Fibre Channel   – 24 Tbps per chassis capacity
  • Only 3 fabric cards are required to support full 16G line rate capacity
  • Supports up to 384 Line Rate 16G FC or 10G FCoE ports
  • So there is room for growth for higher throughput in the future …without forklift upgrades

This is more than three times the bandwidth of any Director in the market today – providing our customers with a superior investment protection for any future needs!

While we provide the performance, we also enable our customers to preserve their existing IT operations and what they already know. In other words, we provide consistent operations and easy migration with NX-OS and DCNM tools, the single Operating System and Management across MDS and Nexus portfolios.



That brings us to reliability. In this environment, downtime is simply not acceptable especially given the business cost of it.  If you can’t write to a storage array, then where do you go from there?

With MDS, we have a proven heritage of 8+ years of non-stop operations in our customers’ mission-critical production environments. This zero-downtime is even during Software upgrades. We are building on MDS nonstop operations heritage and taking it to the next level with our new MDS solutions.

For the MDS 9710, we used a combination of redundant components and a fault tolerant design to achieve the level of reliability we know our customers demand.

Take the switching fabric…

  • 3 fabrics needed for a fully loaded chassis
  • Add a fourth fabric, then you get… N+1 redundancy… no loss of bandwidth even if a fabric fails!
  • Unlike other vendor where their Director loses 1/2 the bandwidth if a fabric fails!

We’ve taken a similar approach with power supplies…

  • 3 power supplies needed for a fully loaded chassis today…
  • Add a 4th power supply for N+1 redundancy…
  • Two sets of 3 provides N:N grid redundancy
  • Similar approach with the fans, redundant supervisors…

Cisco MDS customers have come to expect In-Service Software Upgrades (ISSU). This allows software updates and upgrades to be applied to a fully operational platform with no interruption in service. That feature continues to be available on the new MDS platforms.

While both the MDS 9710 and MDS 9250i bring the most efficient airflow of front-to-back, we’ve also reduced failure domains. Features implemented in hardware and in ASICS include distributing port channels across line cards, checking for corrupted frames at ingress as well as egress, and managing buffers in hardware.  All of these innovations protect the SAN and end devices from negatively impacting performance, helping ensure that line rate consistently remains line rate.


As a key component of Unified Data Center, these MDS innovations provide unmatched flexibility with its multi-protocol solutions supporting Fibre Channel, FICON, Fibre Channel over Ethernet, Fibre Channel over IP, and iSCSI.

Take the other’s offerings in the market – It takes several products put together to offer multiprotocol. Either they have FC, but no FCoE. Or they have both FC and FCoE, but greatly oversubscribed bandwidth.  

Unlike disparate solutions… our MDS 9710 supports both FC and FCoE. Cisco MDS is all about allowing customers to preserve their investments in Fibre Channel storage and in addition providing an option to FCoE. It’s about FLEXIBILITY. Customers have freedom of choice.  This enables consolidation of LAN and SAN into a single high performance network over lossless Ethernet if they choose to go that route.  

We’ve recently achieved a number of “firsts” for FCoE on the Nexus and UCS front as well:

  • Industry-first 40G FCoE with Nexus 6004, announced last January
  • First to prove multihop FCoE compatibility across 10GBaseT – standard Cat6a copper wire – with UCS, Nexus 5000, and Nexus 2000


We are also introducing MDS 9250i Multiservice Switch with:

  • Up to 40 ports of 16 Gig Fibre Channel (FC) or FICON
  • 8 ports of 10 Gig FCoE
  • 2 ports of 1/10 Gig Ethernet for FCIP for SAN extensions or iSCSI
  • All ports at line rate

On top of these it will consolidate storage services into a single platform such as:

  • SAN extension (FCIP) – connectivity between data centers for Business Continuity Disaster Recovery
  • IO Accelerator (IOA) to accelerate tape backup and disk replication
  • Data Mobility Manager (DMM) to migrate data between heterogeneous arrays

It will also eliminate service device sprawl as it can be used as a single storage services platform across MDS and Nexus. And guess what? Once again competition requires several boxes to deliver what our MDS 9250i can do.


These new MDS innovations redefine storage networking with superior performance, reliability and flexibility.  With this launch….Cisco is raising the bar for storage networks! Also please don’t forget that we formed strong industry partnerships with EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, NetApp etc. in order to provide complete solutions to our customers.   

..One of our key business advantages is – our unified approach to the data center –which storage networking is an integral part of… In other words, the Cisco Unified Data center is an architectural approach combining compute, storage, network and management… across physical, virtual, and cloud environments… resulting in increased budget efficiency… more agile business responsiveness, and simplified operations.… more than just a collection of products compared to other vendors… not only in LAN, but also in SAN.

Please join our panel of experts in an online event I will be hosting as we discuss how new storage networking solutions from Cisco address new requirements for the SAN while establishing new benchmarks for performance, reliability, and architectural flexibility. 

Register here

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Are there any plans to include the Storage Media Encryption services as per the MDS 9000

    • Hi David,
      We don’t share future product roadmap. I will share your interest with Product Management.


  2. I leave a leave a response when I especially enjoy a post on a site or if I have
    something to valuable to contribute to the conversation.
    Usually it is a result of the passion communicated in the post I read.
    And on this post Introducing MDS 9710 Multilayer Director and
    MDS 9250i Multiservice Switch – Raising the Bar for Storage Networks.
    I was actually moved enough to drop a leave a responsea response 😉 I do have a
    couple of questions for you if you tend not to mind.
    Could it be just me or do a few of the remarks look as if they are coming
    from brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are writing on other online social sites, I would like to keep up with you.
    Would you make a list all of your community pages like your
    linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

    • Thank you for leaving a comment. I am happy that you enjoyed my blog. I mainly write in Cisco Data Center blog site and especially when we bring out new products and solutions. While I am not that active, you can find me at as well.


  3. Hi,

    It’s nice to see the MDS products being developed, but what about the training courses to accompany these.

    The Designing Cisco Storage Networking Solutions course (& exam 642-357) and Implementing Cisco Storage Networking Solutions course (& exam 642-359) are both about to be retired leaving your “Data Center Storage Specialist” with no options.

    Of course the Data Center Unified Fabric options are available, but these (as I understand it) only really touch on the MDS series and are focused on the Nexus products.


    • Hi James,
      Cisco Learning has decided to take data centric approach. What this means is all the product specific training courses are being retired one by one and are getting merged in to wider technology specific area like Data Centre is one as an example. Certification and training courses like DCUFI, etc includes Nexus and MDS products training and certifications.
      As a result, Cisco learning has decided to retire DCSNS, ICSNS, IASNS and CCIE Storage Networking as well by the end of Q2CY13.
      To cover up the MDS specific trainings, we are now focusing on DCMDS which is specific to MDS products. This course is available now with 9222i platform and will be updated soon to include new platform – MDS 9710 (and 9250i at a later stage). The approximate timeline we estimate for this course update to be rolled out to all of our training partners is around Q3CY13 time frame.
      So, if you are looking for MDS specific training course for storage experts, DCMDS is the way to go. It covers all the indepth details and is appropriate for new starter in SAN or experts in SAN as well.
      Hope this answers your question.

      • more on training..I am getting students who are struggling to zero in on what they need to do their job in Data Center and as Cisco spreads bits of training across methodologies and re-aligns certifications, you are leaving many students in a panic, it is getting very difficult to help someone figure out what exactly they need next to do well in their job. So after DCUFI, in the data center / storage world, what class(S) would a student in this environment want to continue on this knowledge path without being redundant? wouldn’t the , DCMDS be more of the same after DCUFI?

        • Hi Declina,
          Apologies for the delay in responding to your query.
          I agree, DCMDS would be kind of overlapping with DCUFI. But at the same time, let me mention that DCUFI is a certification course covering the Data Center technology where as DCMDS is a product specialist course, focused totally towards MDS product line. DCUFI also includes Nexus 7000 product line along with MDS.
          In other words, depending on where the student wants to move forward, he/she will take other DCU** courses or select DCMDS for MDS focused training.
          Hope this helps.

  4. Thank you for posting this article. Is there plans for
    FCIP on the 9710?

    • Hi Caleb,

      Thanks for your question. I will pass on your information to Product Management to have a further discussion.

  5. If you don’t agree with Cisco’s view point, they will delete your post. This is the second post today. Does this post fit into the category of derogatory? As it says: “Spam, promotional and derogatory comments will be removed.” But I don’t think that this is any of those. This is a legitimate viewpoint and comment. Cisco just doesn’t like to be told the Emperor is not wearing any clothes. Anybody out there ready to rah-rah!!! over this release? Come on let’s hear it.

    Original post:
    Raising the bar… Really??? More like catching up. Certainly not raising any bars.

    And there were references to cloud as well. “Cloud” should be replaced with “VMware”. Having just returned from OpenStack Summit, just how do these products integrate into an open cloud? Until Havana is released there is no FC integration for open clouds. Will there be an OpenStack plugin? FCoE is not even on the radar yet for OpenStack. So, unless this is an iSCSI box doing OpenStack Cinder, there is no cloud here unless its for what VMware calls a cloud.

    • While we disagree, thank you for sharing your point of view. Based on what we hear from our customers and the mega trends I have highlighted, we believe that our new MDS innovations come at the right time. An example of this is 16 Gig Fibre Channel. Our customers are telling us that they are just starting to see the need for bandwidth beyond 8G. The ecosystem for 16G is just developing: Vendors are now starting to introduce 16G arrays and HBA’s from Q-logic, Emulex and others started shipping only in the last few quarters.

      Again 16G is just one example. As I outlined how Cisco is raising the bar in the blog, I would like to reiterate:
      1-The new Cisco MDS 9710 Director establishes a new benchmark for performance – delivering more than three times the bandwidth of any Director in the industry – providing investment protection/future-proofing while preserving current IT operations and knowledge.

      2-Cisco takes the MDS heritage of non-stop, decade of operations to the next level with the MDS 9710 – industry’s most reliable storage Director with N+1 fabric, fully redundant components and fault-tolerant architectural design.

      3-The next generation MDS innovations, a key component of the Cisco Unified Data Center, provide unmatched flexibility with its multi-protocol innovations unlike others disparate solutions. The freedom of choice coupled with a single, proven operating system and management enable an evolutionary adoption and consistent SAN and LAN networking operations.

      All of these together raise the bar.

    • Hi CoreEdge, I think OpenStack rocks and I am big fan. However, I believe it is not right to equal open cloud to OpenStack and any other cloud to VMware and therefore closed. Granted that OpenStack is perhaps the best path to having a cloud environment which offers a degree of portability and vendor independence, but it isn’t THE only option. You can import VMs from VMWare environments to AWS for instance … can’t say any of them are open, but can’t truly portray any of them as closed so long as they have a public API which is well documented and “free” to use.

      Now in the context of this Cisco announcement, FC and OpenStack dont get along today, perhaps never will … but again, there are many companies operating large virtualization environments and/or private cloud environments (with VMware and other options) which will benefit from better FC support. So I candidly disagree with your view that “Cloud” should be replaced with “VMware” on the post 🙂