New Fibre Channel Switch boost Cisco SDN

Cisco has introduced a new Fibre Channel fabric switch to better connect virtualised servers to all-flash arrays, seeing a rise in back-end array connection port-counts and speed needed to satisfy all-flash array IO demands.

It’s also bumped up its mainframe FICON connect speed and spread 40GbitE support across its Nexus switches.

Cisco’s basket of storage networking goodies contains:

  • New MDS 9396S fabric switch
  • 16GB FICON support on MDS 9706 and 9250i
  • More 40GbitE Converged Ethernet support, extending from Nexus 2300 and 5600 to the 7700 and 7000 platforms
  • Enhancements to simplify SAN Management and reduce operational cost

Cisco says the 2U MDS 9396S is the next-generation product in the MDS 9000 line and features:

MDS 9396S

  • 48 to 96 16Gbit/s Fibre Channel (FC) ports
  • 2/4/8/10/16Gbit/s auto-sensing
  • 4,095 buffer to buffer credits per port
  • 12-port increments
  • Pay-as-you-grow, on-demand licensing
  • Supports Cisco Virtual SAN, inter-VSAN routing, PortChannel with multi-path load-balancing, flow-based and zone-based QoS

It slots in between the existing MDS 9100 and 9200 switches and the 9500 and 9700 Directors, with the 9500 possibly going away. Cisco says it’s an extension of the 12-48 port 9148S, which might imply the 9200 could be on the way out.


The ability to scale a single switch from 48 to 96 ports beats Brocade because its product set requires a step change from edge switches, maxing out at 48 ports to enterprise/trunk switches at the 96-port level. It’s cheaper to go to 96 ports

The 16GB FICON support is a speed raise from 10GB for mainframe-to-MDS links.

With 40GbitE Nexus support, Cisco blogger Tony Antony says “customers have the flexibility to deploy 40G FCoE, NAS, iSCSI, IP-based object storage, and LAN connectivity on a single platform.”

Check out an MDS 9396S datasheet here.