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Cisco is adding performance and security features to its MDS 9000 Fibre Channel SAN director platform to make it more palatable to mainframe shops.
The enhancements will speed replication on mainframes over the WAN and add encryption and management capabilities along with 8 Gbps FICON support. The idea is to improve Cisco’s FICON performance as IBM begins phasing out older ESCON mainframe connectivity devices, which will force customers to swap out mainframe switches and HBAs.
“All those ESCON directors are going to be taken out and need to be replaced,” Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Bob Laliberte said. “It will be a phased type of thing, and it presents a great opportunity for Cisco to get penetration on mainframes.”
Cisco’s enhancements include:
• Cisco XRC Acceleration that speeds the performance of IBM z/OS Global Mirror – formerly known as Extended Remote Copy (XRC). Cisco XRC Acceleration caches data to reduce latency over the WAN and speed replication.
• Cisco TrustSec Fibre Channel Link Encryption works on data that goes over any native Fibre link through an upgraded 8 Gbps linecard on either end of Cisco Inter-Switch Links (ISLs). The encryption works on FICON and open systems.
• Cisco I/O MDS 9000 I/O Accelerator, a SAN-based fabric application to speed replication to disk or tape for disaster recovery.
Cisco MDS directors have been more popular in open systems environments than mainframes. When Cisco got into the Fibre Channel switch market in 2003, rivals McData and InRange had a lock on the mainframe space. McData and InRange are now gone, and Brocade has the IP from both companies through acquisitions. Cisco’s storage competitor Brocade still sells McData directors and will likely leverage mainframe IP into its DCX and other new generation directors, but Cisco is looking to persuade organizations with ESCON to switch to MDS.
Laliberte says the XRC Acceleration and Cisco’s ability to re-map FC ports from old directors to MDS 9000 directors by using VSANs should prove especially helpful for mainframe customers.
Cisco’s software line product manager for the MDS Bob Nusbaum says, “IBM’s phase out of ESCON is a strong signal that ESCON users should transition to FICON.”
Nusbaum estimates there are millions of ESCON devices still in use, although the migration to FICON has been going on for years. “If it was easy for customers to get off of it, they’d have done it already,” he says.