Cisco Turns Up Virtualization Heat on Rivals

Cisco unveils a line card and network storage operating system to help customers leverage virtualization utilities.

Cisco Systems revised its storage virtualization tools, adding new hardware and software to keep ahead of rivals Brocade Communications Systems and McData.

During the kickoff of CeBit 2005 in Germany Thursday, the company unveiled the MDS 9000 Storage Services Module and the MDS 9000 SAN-OS 2.1, built to improve the way the Cisco MDS 9000 platform runs volume management, data migration and remote replication applications. These applications help virtualize pools of storage data, and ultimately automate, the storage network.

Rajeev Bhardwaj, senior product manager in Cisco's storage business unit, said the SSM is a 32-port Fibre Channel line card that slides into the chassis of a MDS 9500 Series director or MDS 9200 Seriesfabric switch.

Powering the virtualization features in SSM, the latest OS version for the MDS 9000 is SAN-OS 2.1 includes features designed specifically to work with third-party storage software.

Both the module and the OS support network-hosted storage applications, which is storage software that operates within the MDS 9000 via the SSM. Storage ISVs may write to the module using an API based on the Fabric Application Interface Standard (FAIS).

Vendors supporting the system include IBM , EMC and Veritas , all of which plan to offer storage applications built on the Storage Services Module.

EMC, which like Cisco believes that storage virtualization is best completed on the storage network, is expected to offer its Storage Router storage virtualization application, which includes software built to run on SAN switches.

Bhardwaj said Cisco is in better position than rivals McData and Brocade because it has nearly a two-year head start on enabling virtualization for intelligent applications.

Some market evidence bears this out. Though Brocade is well ahead of Cisco and McData in the total switching market with 46.6 percent, Cisco last quarter saw 20.4 percent revenue growth and gained 1.7 market share, according to research from Dell'Oro. Cisco's year-over-year revenue growth was 194 percent.

In Germany, Cisco also unveiled the SANTap Service, a protocol that operates between the Storage Services Module and a SANTap-enabled storage software appliance.

The San Jose, Calif., networking giant is also looking to enable better data backup with Network-Accelerated Serverless Backup, which uses offloads the data movement from backup servers to the SMS. This lets administrators more rapidly back up large chunks of data.

In a bid to address disaster recovery and business continuity, Cisco is offering Fibre Channel Write Acceleration, which improves network performance for synchronous data replication between two SANs , allowing customers to extend connectivity over longer distances.

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