The new products will be especially useful in helping companies build a distributed disaster recovery network, the company said. The switches will let businesses copy and store information in several locations, while allowing them to access that information from anywhere.
The new Cisco MDS 9216i fabric switch and the Cisco MDS 9000 Multiprotocol Services Module are equipped with 14 Fibre Channel ports--which forward traffic at 2 gigabits per second--and with two 1-gigabit Ethernet ports that can be configured to support either Fibre Channel over Internet Protocol or Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI).
Fibre Channel is the standard used by high-end storage networks. iSCSI, an Internet version of the SCSI hardware technology used for transferring blocks of data over Ethernet, is popular among small and midsize businesses and workgroups. Fibre Channel over IP is aimed at remote storage area networking connectivity.
The new products support Cisco's storage area networking operating system, the SAN-OS 2.0, which is used in all MDS 9000 switches. The operating software offers features such as hardware-assisted compression, Fibre Channel over IP tape acceleration, hardware-based IPSec encryption and extended Fibre Channel buffering, which are all designed to make SAN extension over metropolitan-area and wide-area networks more efficient, less costly and more secure.
Cisco, a leader in Ethernet switching and IP routing, is relatively new to the storage area network switch business. It entered the market two years ago, when it bought storage switch start-up Andiamo Systems in a deal worth $2.5 billion. Storage area networking is one of several new markets Cisco is targeting to expand its business beyond its traditional base.
Two of Cisco's major competitors in storage switching include Brocade Communications Systems, the leader, and McData.
Industry watchers credit Cisco for becoming a strong competitor in a new market in a relatively short period of time, but the vendor's prices are still generally higher than its competitors' products are.
The new products are currently being tested by Cisco's storage reseller partners. These partners are expected to announce pricing and availability in the fourth quarter.