Cisco rolls out two midrange Fibre Channel switches

The move could put downward pressure on prices of rival switch makers

Hoping to cut into a space now dominated by rivals Brocade Communication Systems Inc. and McData Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. today rolled out two midrange Fibre Channel switches, the 20-port MDS 9120 and the 40-port MDS 9140.

Customers can use the Cisco MDS 9100 series switches to build and manage small and medium-size storage-area networks (SAN) or to provide "edge-to-core" connectivity into larger SANs, according to Tom Harrington, Cisco's product manager for storage network switches.

The 9120 is designed for small to midsize companies building their first SANs. However, larger companies can use it to meet storage requirements of a specific application or business function, he said.

According to Harrington, the 9140 is designed to help larger firms connect a large number of servers and storage devices at the edges of core, enterprise-class SANs.

The fixed-configuration Cisco MDS 9100 series switches are one rack unit high (1.75 in.). They support 1Gbit/sec. or 2Gbit/sec. Fibre Channel connectivity.

Because of their compact size, the Cisco MDS 9100 series switches also offer maximum Fibre Channel port density per rack, which helps with the problem of limited space availability common to many enterprise data centers, according to the company.

Harrington said the new products will ship with integrated management tools and network services that are already part of Cisco's MDS 9000 products, including Virtual SAN technology, virtual output queuing and advanced SAN security and diagnostics.

Cisco also announced new software features for the Cisco MDS 9000 series switches. Those products will have Version 1.2 of the Cisco MDS 9000 operating system, or SAN-OS. It's designed to offer enhanced SAN security, better administrative management, advanced troubleshooting and diagnostics and improved investment protection.

Hewlett-Packard Co. is expected to make the Cisco MDS 9100 switches available to customers by the end of the month, with IBM and EMC Corp. following suit in October, Harrington said. Those OEM partners will set their own pricing for the switches.

Jamie Gruener, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, said Cisco is moving to broaden its product portfolio and offer entry-level and midrange fabric switches that target traditional Brocade customers and a growing number of McData customers.

"At this point, it intensifies the race between Cisco, McData and Brocade for new customers, especially on the low end of the market," Gruener said. "And it probably will up the ante from the standpoint of pricing. I think it will put a lot more pressure on the vendors to be competitive on pricing, and you'll probably see some reductions of prices within the next six to 12 months to reflect that."

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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