Completing the rework of its SAN switch line-up that began earlier this year, Cisco Systems Inc has finally launched a home-grown 4GFC low-end switch to replace the box it has been OEM’ing from QLogic Corp.
The move was an inevitable piece of housekeeping, needed to make Cisco’s SAN switch and director portfolio consistent across the board. It also separates QLogic and Cisco just as QLogic is moving up-market in the SAN sector and so increasing the competition between the two companies.
Out goes the QLogic-made 20-port MDS 9020 that Cisco has been selling under its own brand since last year. In comes the Cisco-made MDS 9124, which scales from eight to 24 ports, and will ship from Cisco’s reselling partners next month.
Or at least the QLogic-made box will be phased out over time. Cisco’s product director Rajeev Bhardwaj initially claimed that the networking giant will continue selling the MDS 9020, to improve customers’ flexibility. But obviously Cisco is not going to push third-party gear when it has its own product at hand.
Over time customers will transition from the 9020 to the 9124, Bhardwaj eventually admitted. QLogic’s marketing vice president Frank Berry was much more candid. The OEM deal has ended, he said.
The MDS 9020 box was only ever intended as a temporary gap filler. When Cisco began selling the device, its portfolio already included the homegrown, 20-port MDS 9120. But unlike the QLogic device, that box only supported 2Gbps FC, and not the faster 4GFC variant. As such it was poor competition against Brocade and its line-up of top-to-bottom 4GFC devices.
Now with the launch of the MDS 9124, Cisco’s entire line-up runs the same 4GFC silicon and operating system firmware as the rest of the MDS switches and director line-up, which were updated to the higher FC speed in the Spring this year.
Cisco said the MDS 9124 will compete with Brocade’s 16-port Silkworm 200E and up-to-32-port 4100 switches, and will of course be competitively priced.
16-port SAN switches usually cost around $7,000 to $8,000, Bhardwaj said. As for Cisco’s other boxes, the 9124 will be sold for an all-in price that includes a full software suite. Brocade and other vendors split out their software into separately licensed modules.
Because it runs the same SAN OS operating system as the rest of Cisco’s MDS boxes, the 9124 can support high-end functions such as VSAN splitting of SANs into logical sub-divisions. But while it sports dual hot-swap power supplies and fans and hot code updating, it will not feature some of the high-end software features of Cisco’s other gear, such inter-VSAN routing.