Storage Area Networks (SAN)

IBM c-type SAN directors: Real investment protection with 64G FC readiness

By Bhavin Yadav posted Tue October 27, 2020 06:46 PM


In this series of blogs, we are trying to discuss some of the unique advantages of IBM c-type SAN switches across the Fibre Channel industry. In the first blog, we talked about NVMe/FC support in IBM c-type SAN Switches. Now, let’s talk about investment protection.

Investment protection is usually discussed as a business advantage. But let me cover a technical and operational perspective today, the pain customer endures because of the complex chassis fork-lifting.

IBM c-type multilayer director-class switches carry on the legacy of investment protection that was provided by its legacy 8G platform.

The IBM SAN384C-6 Multilayer Director was launched in April 2013, supporting 384 ports of line-rate performance at 16G FC speed per chassis, followed by SAN192C-6 and SAN768C-6.

In 2017, the same chassis was ready to support 32G FC speed at line-rate performance, non-disruptively, without any fork-lifting.  

Today, we are talking about 64G FC speeds and NVMe based fabric feeds. In 2019, new supervisor-4 modules and fabric-3 modules were launched to provide the 64G FC capability to c-type director switches. So, the chassis our customer buys today is ready to drive the SAN with the optimal speed of NVMe and future 64G FC speed. That’s adding a decade long life in the existing c-type chassis. 

So, if we look at IBM’s c-type director switches in the picture below (figure 1), shows the commitment and investment with continuous hardware and software innovation, through three different speed generations (16G, 32G, and 64G in the future), along with software innovations like SAN Analytics, Anticoutnerfeit technology, etc.. And very importantly – all these upgrades are non-disruptive, i.e. no chassis reboot/shutdown/reload required.

Figure 1. Hardware innovation

Now, the question is – where is the investment protection we are talking about? Let’s look at the commercial value savings:


 16G FC (2013)

 32G FC (2017)

 64G FC (Future)

 Components needed

 New Chassis

 Only 32G FC module

 Fab-3 + Sup-4 modules + 64G modules* (as needed)

 Investment needed




 Savings per generation per chassis



 Overall savings across multiple   generations for the same chassis



CapEx investment needed for customers using IBM c-type directors                                                                                           *: Future

And the savings continue for customers in the future as they can now continue using the same modules, same optics, same fabric modules, same cables, and so on with the new generation, without affecting the future capability of the chassis. Clear and transparent savings for customers.

And about technical difficulties: 

  • Ask the DC architects how much planning goes in for chassis replacement (over-subscription, airflow, space, power, cable, etc.).
  • Ask the engineer on the data center floor for the efforts required to rack and stack new chassis (new cables, new optics, new airflow directions, new power requirements, and the downtime to physically swap the chassis and cables thereafter). And if something goes haywire during this chassis swap (Murphy’s Law), a simple 15-minute outage means millions of dollars lost in revenue.

This is where the c-type directors continue their technological innovation to maintain feature superiority, in both directions – hardware and software.

This is how hundreds of c-type SAN directors are still running nonstop for 10+ years.

And finally, this is what we can offer our customers, higher ROI, and huge savings.

So, happy investing :) and see you soon with the next blog in this series with another such unique, innovative advantage of IBM c-type SAN product portfolio.