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Cisco telemetry data gets streamed from MDS 9700 32G modules

Cisco SAN telemetry sensors capture insight on network fabrics to aid capacity and infrastructure management. The FC feature provides real-time instrumentation analytics.

Cisco can now stream telemetry data directly from its 32 Gbps MDS 9700 Fibre Channel module, allowing data centers to capture real-time performance analytics on SAN fabrics without the use of network taps.

Cisco SAN Telemetry Streaming is designed to improve troubleshooting of SAN fabrics by improving visibility without affecting performance. The Cisco telemetry streaming capability has led to a technology partnership with SAN and NAS monitoring vendor Virtual Instruments. The Cisco MDS 9700 32G Module with SAN telemetry streaming will feed analytics data to Virtual Instruments' VirtualWisdom performance management tool.

Also last week, Cisco introduced an expandable entry-level switch as the newest member of the MDS 9100 all-flash switches and added support for network port virtualization on the next-generation Nexus 9300-FX 16 Gbps switch, which is used for consolidating LAN and SAN infrastructure.

Virtual Instruments tapped as first Cisco telemetry streaming partner

The advent of 32 Gbps products are based on the sixth generation of the Fibre Channel (FC) protocol, also called Gen 6 FC. Cisco MDS SAN Telemetry Streaming is available only on its 32 Gb FC MDS 9000 modules. The SAN analytics in the MDS 9700 32 GB line card captures metrics on all IP traffic spanning across a fabric.

The functionality captures Fibre Channel and iSCSI headers, and it reads each data packet at full duplex line rate. Cisco application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) embed a dedicated network processing unit to analyze instrumentation data. Using an open source remote procedure call, Cisco streams the performance analytics from MDS line cards to a dedicated data store.

Adarsh Viswanathan, a senior manager of Cisco data center product management, said customers have been requesting Cisco for several years to retool the way MDS switches gather and disseminate analytics on FC storage traffic. The standard implementation has been to install a third-party hardware appliance and software to scan network ports.

"Previously, Fibre Channel customers were limited by visibility and by scale. We provide a pull model or a push model, based on how you want to consume the data," Viswanathan said. "Our customers have been asking for this for years and years. We built this into our ASICs, so we can perform analytics at line rate and scale across fabrics."

Virtual Instruments monitors storage fabrics using hardware taps that collect performance data and transmit it to its NAS Performance Probe hardware devices, which in turn relay it for analysis in the VirtualWisdom data store. The ability to stream Cisco telemetry data from MDS switches expands Virtual Instruments' flexibility in large enterprises, said Tim Van Ash, its senior vice president of products.

The NAS Performance Probe tracks traffic by monitoring about 300 metrics. It presents performance data in digestible charts and histograms. The level of granularity served tier-one applications well, Van Ash said, but it's not cost-effective on less critical data.

"This effectively turns VirtualWisdom into a software-only deployment for many Cisco customers. They would buy our monitoring and analytics, but not necessarily need to buy our taps and probes," Van Ash said.

Cisco follows Brocade with launch of 32 GB fabric switch for flash storage

The Cisco MDS 9132T 32 Gbps FC switch is a 1U form factor that inserts as a top-of-rack or middle-of-the-row switch. It includes 16 ports and is geared to department-level or smaller SAN flash environments.

MDS 9132T comes with eight switches turned on by default. Customers can light up the remaining eight ports with an additional license and scale to 32 FC ports by inserting a 16-port expansion module. Cisco telemetry diagnostics are designed to pinpoint network issues that could hinder all-flash array performance.

Cisco has played follow-the-leader with its FC switching competitor Brocade when it comes to advancing FC technology. The 9132T 32 GB switch comes after Brocade in March launched the G610 entry-level device. The G610 switch tops out at 24 ports.

"We historically have been years behind our competition. But this time, we are introducing product within six months of the others," Viswanathan said.

Nexus 9300-NX port virtualization is based on Cisco Cloud Scale networking software. The converged switch lets customers unify 48 fixed small pluggable form factor ports for 25 Gigabit Ethernet or 16/32 GB FC.

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