Cisco Gets Set

HDS OKs Andiamo switches, while IBM sets ship date and pricing UPDATED 2/19 4PM

February 19, 2003

4 Min Read
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Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) moved two steps forward in its Fibre Channel switch onslaught, as Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) announced its qualification of the MDS 9000 family and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) set a March general availability date for the switches.

IBM on Tuesday announced that it will start offering Cisco's MDS 9000, beginning with the MDS 9509 director and 9216 fabric switch, on March 21, 2003 in the U.S. In early January, IBM announced its intention to resell the Andiamo switches (see IBM Tells Cisco: 'Let's Go!').

But if the pricing IBM disclosed is any indication, Cisco -- as usual -- is charging a serious premium over its competitors for FC fabric switches. According to Big Blue, this is how it breaks down:

Table 1: IBM List Prices of Cisco's Andiamo Switches


IBM Part No.



Price Per Port

MDS 9216



1 16-port line card


MDS 9509



2 16-port line cards


MDS 9509



2 16-port line cards


That puts the starting price for a 16-port MDS 9216, which is expandable up to 48 ports, at $3,266 per port -- well above that of FC fabric switches from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) or McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA). IBM sells Brocade's 16-port SilkWorm 3800 (rebranded as the IBM 2109-F16) for $33,770, or about $2,100 per port. Other switches in this category are even lower: McData's Sphereon 4500, in a 16-port configuration, carries a list price of $15,000 (see McData Lowers Boom on Brocade).At the high end, the story is much the same. IBM will sell two different models of the director-class MDS 9509, which provides between 32 and 224 ports: the 2062-T07, which runs on DC power, and the 2062-D07, which is AC. Why the discrepancy in price for AC vs. DC? IBM says the DC power supplies cost about two and a half times more than AC ones; there are two power supplies in each base 9509 model. Even the power supplies on this thing are molto expensive.

Now, for the minimum 32-port configuration, IBM's list prices for the 9509 switches are again higher than those of systems from Brocade and McData, which list around $3,000 per port. The AC model of the MDS 9509 works out to $5,918 per port and the DC model comes in at (careful, don't swallow your tongue) $7,158 per port. [Ed. note: In an earlier version of this article, the prices listed for each of the 9509 models did not include line cards.]

But Craig Butler, brand manager in IBM's storage products division, says the MDS 9509s typically will not be configured with just 32 ports. "Most customers are going to order them at much higher port [counts] and spread the infrastructure costs across more ports," he says. That may be true, but the line cards for the 9509 still come in at more than $3,900 per port.

Do Cisco or IBM really believe this first-generation product is worth such a healthy markup over going market prices? Tarek Makansi, director of storage products for IBM, told us last month the switches would be "competitively priced given their value." The market, as always, will decide.

Cisco, for its part, argues that the Andiamo switches bring major new management features to the table, such as Virtual SANs (VSANs), which groups ports into a logical SAN fabric while sharing the same physical hardware infrastructure. In addition, Cisco is preparing an IP Storage Services Module for the MDS 9000 switches -- due out in the first half of this year -- which will provide iSCSI and Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) support (see Cisco's VSANs: Hype or Innovation?).But Cisco still refuses to give out its own pricing for the MDS 9000 family, even though it claims it started shipping to customers in mid-December. Perhaps we'll have to wait until it officially completes the "acquisition" of Andiamo Systems Inc. -- which is actually an in-house project bankrolled solely by Cisco -- before we find out (see Cisco's Creative Andiamo Options and Cisco Buys Andiamo).

Also on Tuesday, HDS officially became the first vendor to qualify the MDS switches with its storage systems. HDS also announced that it has signed a non-binding letter of intent to resell and support the Cisco switches (see HDS Certifies Cisco MDS 9000).

"When the terms of the agreement between Cisco and Hitachi are finalized, Hitachi Data Systems will make the Cisco MDS 9000 available to its customers with full service and support," HDS said in a statement. However, a company representative was unable to say when the reseller agreement is expected to become official. HDS didn't have pricing information, either.

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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