Storage Area Networks (SAN)

IBM SAN C-type 32G Fibre Channel Fabric switches: Small doesn’t mean less !!!

By Bhavin Yadav posted Fri September 11, 2020 05:57 PM


When we think about fabric switches, we tend to consider low-end hardware. These typically do not require considerable memory, CPU, intense resources, or functionality. We also tend to think about them as just aggregation layer switches which will reduce our cable runs to the core switch. This helps keep investment and operation costs under control – fewer cables, hardware resources, and management.

All this is true and I am not in disagreement with the previous statements. However, let me address some recent changes that should be considered before making an investment decision.

Storage Area Networks are Evolving

Spinning disks are being replaced with All-Flash Arrays with NVMe on the horizon.  Servers are moving to NVMe storage as well as being NVMe/FC capable. Moreover, Storage Area Network (SAN) Directors also support NVMe/FC, along with robust hardware and software capabilities. The most ignored point is the fabric switch, where we connect our hosts and storage ports. This becomes a real problem if they have limited resources and feature support.  More often, the performance problems are found on the edge switches, rather than the core switches because that’s the highway entry for the packets to get into the fabric.

Now, what if we had more powerful hardware with more robust feature sets in this small form factor switches that we currently see in Director-class core switches? IBM SAN C-type 32G fibre-channel (FC) switches have this unique advantage, using the same switching ASICs across IBM SAN C-type 32G FC Director modules and IBM SAN C-type 32G FC fabric switches.

10 Unique Enterprise Level Fabric Switch Features

Let’s discuss some of the unique enterprise-level features of these fabric switches:

  1. The port ASIC: All three switches are using the same ASIC that we are using in the 32G FC module of IBM SAN C-type director. This means this small fabric switch has the power of a modular switch. Small doesn’t mean less for IBM SAN C-type fabric switches.
  2. NVMe/FC support: Supported transparently across all the switches.
  3. Scalability: Offering a wide range of selection from 8-port to 96-port configuration.
  4. SAN Analytics: Dedicated hardware to support Industry-first deep packet visibility across the fabric - a unique cost-effective, simple, and secure solution.
  5. Security: Unique approach to security using anti-counterfeit technology and secure boot.
  6. Ease of deployment. Unique Autozone feature to automate zoning functionality.
  7. Simplified Management: DCNM for IBM SAN C-type is a single-pane-of-glass dashboard to manage all IBM SAN C-type switches.
  8. Feature parity: Benefit from the same level of inflight encryption, buffer credits, long-distance DWDM connectivity, same port group size, and non-oversubscribed line-rate performance across all fabric switches.
  9. Redundancy: Field replicable and redundant 80Plus Platinum-certified power supplies and FAN trays
  10. Flexibility: Front-to-back or Back-to front airflow options.

So, now when we go FC switch shopping, we don’t have to worry about features as they are common across all different models, just know how many ports we need and that’s it.

In the next blog, we will cover one more such topic: How IBM SAN C-type switches are leading innovation.

Until then, happy shopping!  

Additional Resources

Learn more about IBM Storage Networking C-type family

Blog: Spinning up an NVMe/FC Strategy using IBM C-type SAN Switches