Cisco releases services-oriented SAN network line card

One line card can provide encryption, FCIP, data erasure, and backup acceleration

Cisco Systems Thursday announced a new network line card based on a services-oriented architecture (SOA) that offers four different functions for storage area networks (SANs) that can be licensed separately and deployed regardless of the back-end storage hardware.

Cisco's Storage Services Node-16 (SSN-16) line card contains four controller chips, each delivering a different function to the SAN: a Fibre Channel over IP engine; a data encryption engine; a data erasure engine; and an engine for compressing and accelerating replication and backup data across MANs and WANs.

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The SSN-16 line card can be used in Cisco's line of MDS 9500 Series Multilayer Directors and its MDS 9222i Multiservice Modular Switch.

Cisco also announced it's offering its Data Mobility Manager (DMM), an existing software product, as a data migration service on the new line card. DMM can now be licensed as one of the line card engines to enable data migration from one array to another for repurposing or retiring storage hardware.

"Also, sometimes you have hot LUNs [logical unit numbers] that are getting pounded by I/O that can be moved to another array to accelerate performance," said Bob Nusbaum, product line manager for Cisco Storage Solutions. "You can insert this service into the data path and do a data migration while the LUNs are still in use."

Cisco has been offering the DMM as a separate line card in its MDS intelligent fabric switches for a little over a year, but Nusbaum said he sees it now being used on the new line card in conjunction with the secure erasure service. The DMM would first migrate data from an old array to a new one and then the erasure service could sanitize the old array, he said.

Cisco would not release any pricing information on the new SSN-16 line card, saying system manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard and EMC would be responsible for setting the pricing for the licenses.

"You buy a license for the service you want and administratively configure it and it goes out to whole switch," Nusbaum said. "This is a very flexible solution."

Cisco has offered storage-related services such as FCIP through single line cards in its MDS switch line in the past, but this is the first time those services have been combined on a single card.

Nusbaum said combining four services on one card saves "valuable slots" in an MDS switch chassis, and it transparently delivers services to any port in a storage fabric. "It requires no additional SAN re-configuration or re-wiring," he said.

The card is also compatible with all the latest Fibre Channel throughput protocols, including 4Gbit/sec, 8Gbit/sec or 10Gbit Fibre Channel, which is typically used for inter-switch links.

"The goal is to leverage the storage network for services by integrating services independently. It's much easier to deploy them that way, because you don't have to worry about what's on either end of the switch," Nusbaum said. "It's the most economical and efficient way to do it, because you don't have to waste ports by connecting to appliances."

The SSN-16 card's I/O Accelerator engine uses a combination of compression and block protocol acceleration techniques to enhance performance and reduce bandwidth requirements for backup and replication of data over a MAN and WAN.

The card's encryption module encrypts data-at-rest on heterogeneous SAN-attached tape backup devices or virtual tape libraries, which are arrays that emulate tape libraries for accelerating backups and keeping backup data online for longer periods of time. The encryption module includes secure key management that can be integrated with enterprise -wide lifecycle key managers.

The SAN Extension over FCIP engine connects two or more SAN fabrics securely over an FCIP WAN link, allowing the use of standard Ethernet switches to transmit block-level data for business continuity or disaster recovery.

Christian Teeft, senior director of product engineering for NTT America, said in a statement that his company's a fast-growing service provider and its SAN infrastructure needs to be agile, making Cisco's services-oriented SAN fabric "ideal for us."

"LUN migration, LUN erasure, data encryption and high performance replication and backup between data centers are all essential storage services, and Cisco can add value to all of them with their fabric-based deployment model," he said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld . Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian , send e-mail to lmearian@computerworld.com or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed .

This story, "Cisco releases services-oriented SAN network line card" was originally published by Computerworld.

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