Making Sure the Storage Infrastructure Keeps Pace

Cisco Briefing Note

Pressure on the storage architecture is compounded by the variety of ways that infrastructure is delivered. Options range from traditional fibre channel storage area networks, to IP storage networks, to bladed systems and to hyperconverged infrastructures. Then, each of these are available as hardware bundles or as software defined solutions. The number of options is overwhelming but IT professionals need to remember that at the core of each is the network. While architectures may change how that network is leveraged in accessing storage, there is always a network. Advancing that network to keep up with increased expectations around performance, scale and disaster recovery remains a critical focus for IT professionals.

Cisco recently made three announcements that enable IT professionals to design better disaster recovery infrastructures, keep up with increasing demands on performance and simplifying end-to-end storage management.

Improving Disaster Recovery

Cisco BN picMost enterprises prepare for a disaster by replicating data from their primary data center to a secondary data center or even dedicated disaster recovery site. There are a number of tools that enable this replication but the most common is array to array through a utility provided by the array vendors. Most of these systems tend to be fibre channel (FC) based, and of course WAN connections are IP based. The conversion is typically done through a SAN Extension Module. These modules will bridge standard FC to fibre channel over IP (FCIP) so it is compatible with a WAN.

As the speed of on-premises networks have increased so have the bandwidth capabilities of WAN connectivity. At the same time, of course, the amount of data that changes on a daily basis continues to increase. SAN Extension Modules need to keep pace. The new Cisco SAN Extension Module installs directly into Cisco’s MDS 9700 Director Class switches. It provides 24 x 16G FC line-rate Ports, 8 x 1/10GE IPS (FCIP) Ports and 2 x 40GE IPS (FCIP) ports. This combination of ports enables the rapid transfer of data from the SAN to the WAN in an incredibly dense package. 40GE IPS support will be available in a future release via software upgrade.

Improving Network Bandwidth

As the number of applications increase, the number of virtual and physical servers increase creating a random I/O firestorm. Shared flash storage can, for the most part, support this I/O but the network between compute and storage needs to facilitate a smooth line of communication. Cisco’s new switches and line cards add support for the latest improvements in bandwidth while increasing port density.

Nexus 9000 family of data center switches include high bandwidth and flexible speed options of 10/25/40/50/100G. The switches are built on Cloud Scale ASIC technology designed for high performance IP and FC connectivity.

Improving SAN Management

While disaster recovery and performance are critical, the organization judges IT’s ability to respond to organizational needs daily. The network needs to itself enable self-service and automation. Cisco’s Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) now has a HTML interface and enables SAN automation. DCNM can create and provision storage resources from select storage arrays. Now IT can consolidate network and storage provisioning into a single task, making itself both more responsive to inbound requests and even creating self-service capabilities so the response is automatic.

StorageSwiss Take

While meeting the performance and provisioning demands of an enterprise is important, nothing is potentially more important than recovering from a disaster. The first step in the recovery process is site preparation and update. Cisco’s new SAN Extension module enables IT to keep their data centers connected and updated.

The day to day challenge for IT is meeting the organizational expectations for performance and provisioning. The need for performance is never ending. Keeping up with bandwidth requirements is table stakes for network infrastructure but being on the front edge of bandwidth options while increasing density is a key advantage for Cisco. Its ability to automate the management of more and more of the storage infrastructure is also key. Automation is the only way to keep up with the rapidly change app demands of the business, Cisco’s updates to DCNM go a long way to enabling IT to do that.

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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