In 2015 Storage is still all about the Network

Briefing Note: CISCO 2015 Product Announcement Summary

As we enter 2015, IDC projects a 10X growth in virtual servers over the next five years, a 16X growth in data and a 4X growth in the use of flash based storage. The foundational element of the data center that will enable this growth to occur without interruption is the storage network. The challenge is how to expand this foundation to accommodate legacy architectures, while enabling next generation architectures.

In order to meet this challenge Cisco provides a flexible variety of fibre, FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) and IP based solutions that can evolve as their customer’s needs change, all unified under a single management interface.

Fibre remains the primary storage network protocol for many data centers, especially for their core applications. And, the majority of virtualized environments run fibre as well. To address this reality Cisco introduced their 9148S Multilayer Fabric Switch, a 16G fibre channel (FC) SAN solution for small to medium sized business. Its pay-as-you grow licensing model allows you to buy the switch in 12-port increments, ideal for the rapidly growing medium sized business.

At the high end Cisco released its 9706 Director, which is similar to Cisco’s 9710 Director in a more compact form factor, ideal for virtual, cloud and pod architectures. The 9710 has a very high port density of 192 auto sensing line rate 16Gbps FC or 10 Gbps FCoE ports per chassis.

This strategy seems to be a success because recent Dell ‘Oro and Synergy reports Cisco gaining traction in the fibre market segment.

Unstructured Data and the Storage Network

As stated above FC remains dominant in environments that handle structured datasets and applications as well as encapsulated data sets like virtual infrastructures. Growth, however, is occurring in unstructured data. The storage systems that support this growth, object storage and NAS, are mostly Ethernet based, so the data center needs an architecture and management platform that can support both fibre and Ethernet.

The role of FCoE is to allow those legacy FC architectures to migrate from FC cabling to Ethernet at a pace that’s comfortable for the organization. The goal is to end up with a single cable type connecting everything. The speed at which this convergence will happen can be debated but the value of flexibility for the customer, to make that migration when they are ready, cannot.

StorageSwiss Take

Cisco, obviously a leader in networking in general, clearly focused on FC in 2014. As they enter 2015 they seem poised to help customers build infrastructures for unstructured data, while maintaining their legacy investments. The capability to gradually transition those legacy environments when and if their customers are ready makes them a compelling point of consolidation.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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