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Companies that need to move storage data over long distances quickly and securely now have more options with the introduction of the MDS 9000 Multiprotocol Services Module and 9216i fabric switch from Cisco Systems Inc.

The San Jose, Calif., company added both products to its Cisco MDS 9000 family of multilayer intelligent directors and fabric switches, mainly used to transport SAN (storage area network) traffic outside the data center.

Both products have 14 Fibre Channel ports and two ports for IP storage connectivity. Both also support the SAN-OS 2.0, the MDS 9000’s latest operating system.

The Multiprotocol Services Module can be used with any MDS 9000 modular chassis, and can be combined with any of a series of MDS 9000 modules including 16- and 32-port 1GB or 2GB Fibre Channel port cards and an eight-port IP Services Module. By combining modules, IT managers can create fully functioning storage networks that employ Fibre Channel switching, integrated multiprotocol switching, mainframe channel extension, network-hosted storage applications or highly optimized SAN extension capabilities.

The Cisco MDS 9216i is a stand-alone system and is part of the Cisco MDS 9200 Series multilayer fabric switches. It also provides an expansion slot that can support any of the Cisco MDS 9000 modules.

The ideal customer for a solution like this, said Mike Fisch, director of storage and networking at Wellesley, Mass.-based Clipper Group Inc., probably has a Fibre Channel SAN and wants to send data over long distances or connect servers via an IP network.

Because the products help users transport storage traffic over metro and wide area networks, they are also particularly useful for organizations that want to shore up disaster recovery and business continuity operations. “Remoteness protects data from local disasters such as hurricanes, floods and fires,” he noted.

That’s exactly what Cisco executives had in mind.

“The principles of disaster recovery and business continuity dictate that primary and backup data centers should be located far away from each other so that a disaster in the primary data center does not affect the backup sites,” Luca Cafiero, senior vice president of Cisco’s data center, switching and wireless technology group, said earlier this week. “SAN extension is vital to this process because it allows IT managers to use networks to connect remote data centers located hundreds to thousands of miles apart.”

Click here to find out why Cisco’s record earnings disappointed investors.

Cisco has put a lot of capability into enabling these technologies for long-distance SAN extension, and while very useful, they are materially different from products available from companies like Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and McData, said Nancy Marrone-Hurley, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group of Milford, Mass.

“When you look at the offerings from Brocade and McData, they are talking about being able to share resources across SANs and being able to effectively determine what resource on SAN A you might want to share with SAN B,” she said. “That’s a bit different from this offering.”

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