Cisco catches up to Brocade with SAN monitoring software

Cisco catches up to Brocade with SAN monitoring software


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Cisco Systems this week is releasing its first analytics software for fiber channel storage networks.Storage administrators can use analytics software to troubleshoot problems; determine whether applications, the network, or servers are to blame; and predict upcoming issues.

Cisco has long had similar software for its IP-based storage networking gear, hinted at a fiber channel version in April 2017, and previewed it in September 2017. Customers who wanted fiber channel monitoring had to buy from other companies such as Virtual Instruments, which specializes in networking performance tools.

The software collects data directly from Cisco’s 32 gigabit storage networking cards. The cards can be installed into older 16 gigabit switches in order to backport their function. Cisco is also releasing an application programming interface (API), product manager Adarsh Viswanathan said.

Cisco customers have long been at a disadvantage to those of Brocade Communications Systems, which announced a fiber channel monitoring system called Analytics Monitoring Platform in summer 2015. Brocade updated its software several times in 2016 and 2017, but there is no API available, which arguably makes the Cisco version more useful because external products can interact with it.

Virtual Instruments will be using that capability in its products. “The VirtualWisdom platform ingests those statistics and performs fairly complex correlation and contectualization,” from which it recommendation actions for configuring and zoning, Virtual Instruments chief technology office John Gentry explained.

Virtual Instruments’ software is in version 5.2 since fall 2016 and will see an upgrade to 5.4 in December 2017, Gentry added. But it’s expected that high-end customers will still opt for a hardware-based analytics and monitoring product, he said.

International Data Corp. analyst Brad Case said the announcements from Cisco and Virtual Instruments are good news for customers.

Industry-wide, “It’s amazing that it’s taken so long for telemetry and streaming analytics to make it to storage area networks and fiber channel… It’s amazing that people were without this for so long,” Case said. As for Cisco, “They are following, but they’ve done a good job here,” he said.

The dream goal is clear: “The network becoming more self-healing and ultimately becoming more self-driving,” Case said. “But I think we’re a long way from it.”

Cisco also announced expansions to its virtualization software and the new MDS 9122T switch, available by the end of October 2017.