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Cisco Enhances MDS 9000 For Mainframe Storage

Cisco has enhanced the MDS 9000 storage product line, adding acceleration over wide area networks, I/O acceleration and encryption for data in flight. These enhancements extend the usefulness of IBM's mainframe systems using z/OS. The benefits of these enhancements are faster and more secure data transfers.

Mary Shacklett notes in Is Mainframe Virtualization An Alternative For Open Systems Shops? that mainframes are far from dead in data centers. Virtualization on x83 servers and workstations is relatively new compared to similar functionality in mainframes. Many IT shops that are virtualizing critical servers and applications are looking at mainframes as the underlying infrastructure for robust virtualization. Cisco supports 8GB FICON for System Z.

One of the uses of virtualization is in disaster recovery. Virtualization makes replicating critical servers to remote locations as simple as a drag and drop. What changes more often is the data, and moving data from one location to another in a timely manner can be difficult. Jointly developed with IBM, eXtended Remote Copy (XRC), aka z/OS Global Mirror, accelerates the availability of data at a remote location. XRC doesn't compress data or use WAN optimization like IP-based file transfers do. XRC is a block-based file transfer and MDS9000 analyzes the underlying data requests and pre-fetches the next data blocks from across the WAN so that the data will be local when requested. It's a way to keep filling the WAN rather than waiting for each request/response round trip. Cisco claims XRC is best suited for distances greater than 2000 miles, beyond which latency severely degrades file transfer speed.

The MDS is also providing FC link layer encryption to secure data transferred over a WAN. Used in cases where FC is the native protocol --not IP for FCoE-- Cisco's TrustSEc Fiber Channel Encryption is an encryption extension to the Fibre Channel Security Protocol that only provides for authentication. The encryption support AES-Galois/Counter Mode (AES-GCM) encrypts and authenticates frames while AES-Galois Message Authentication code (AEC-GMAC) only authenticates frames. Encryption is included in the MDS9000 Enterprise License and requires NX-OS Release 4.2(1) or higher on both peers. The Fibre Channel encryption is supported on FICON, native Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel over IP and Fibre Channel over DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplexing)  networking.