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HPE adds bulk to M-series Ethernet SAN switching

Hewlett Packard Enterprise expanded its M-series Ethernet storage switching with a smaller switch and orchestration software designed to improve management features for iSCSI SANs.

HPE first  launched the M-series in 2017, using Mellanox’s chipset. The M-series is one of three HPE storage switching families. The others are the B-series from Broadcom/Brocade and the C-series from Cisco. While the B and C series are Fibre Channel platforms, the M-series is Ethernet-only.

The new SN2010M is a smaller version of the first three M-series switches released in last year. The new switch is a half-width top of rack switch with 18 ports that support up to 25 Gigabit per second Ethernet and four 40/100-GigE ports. Like the larger M-Series switches, it supports zero packet loss and even bandwidth allocation for predictable performance.

The new HPE Smart Fabric Orchestrator (SFO) software handles management and configuration features such as zoning and provisioning that have long been valuable to Fibre Channel but difficult to set up and manage. The design goal is to eliminate the need for SAN administrators to run storage networks.

Marty Lans, HPE’s GM of storage connectivity, said 80% of data is on Ethernet-based secondary storage platforms. That includes hyper-converged storage, virtual SANs and backup data.

“What Fibre Channel does for primary storage, we’ve done for everything else,” he said of SFO’s management capabilities.

That makes Ethernet-based iSCSI storage important for the emerging NVMe-over Fabrics wave, Lans said. HPE has been building out its secondary storage ecosystem through partnerships with vendors such as Qumulo, Cohesity, Rubrik, Hedvig, Cloudian and Scality. It also has its own SimpliVity hyper-converged platform.

HPE’s major primary SAN platforms – 3PAR and Nimble – support Fibre Channel and Ethernet, although 3PAR’s customer base is mainly Fibre Channel and Nimble’s is mostly iSCSI.

“We realized a big part of the opportunity around NVMe is iSCSI-based,” Lans said. “If we can take the features of Fibre Channel and move it to Ethernet, customers have a choice. They can pick Ethernet instead of Fibre Channel. We’re  not suggesting that, we just wanted to build  another protocol for applications.”

Lans said industry-wide attempts to make Ethernet better for storage – including Converged Enhanced Ethernet and Data  Center Ethernet – overlooked the management capabilities.

He said  SFO eliminates the need for interoperability testing between different vendors’ switches. “Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to go to a Website and look it up?” he said of interoperability lists. “We wanted to settle the politics for this. We layered on orchestration software and did all the interoperability testing.”

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