Packed with 112 ports of 2G bit/sec Fibre Channel, the latest version of Cisco's MDS 9509 delivers a feature set, management interface and performance that was very impressive.
The latest software (Version 1.3(3)) supports new quality-of-service traffic classes and routing between virtual SAN groups. Additionally, new optional modules deliver storage virtualization and caching capabilities. The switch hardware base is the same as the last time we tested, and earned it a near-perfect performance score, although this rating dipped a bit because this round of testing was more extensive and a tad more critical.
The 9509 remains a top performer in the Network World high-end SAN switch tests. The 9509 supports an array of interface modules. Up to seven hot-swappable line cards can be used, in any mixture of 16- or 32-port, 2G bit/sec Fibre Channel Switching Modules. Then there's an eight-port Gigabit Ethernet IP Storage Module, which lets users directly integrate popular storage-over-IP connections with the Fibre Channel fabric. The module supports both iSCSI and Fibre Channel-over-IP links.
The Cisco switch also delivers the survivability users expect at the core of their SAN fabric. Each 9509 ships with redundant, hot-swappable management/fabric-control cards, called supervisors, and redundant power supplies.
There's nothing quite like a good command-line interface (CLI) to manage a Cisco network device, unless there is an even better GUI. The 9509 has both. The CLI has the standard Cisco IOS look and feel. And the GUI delivers effective central management, featuring dynamic topology mapping.
The Cisco Fabric Manager GUI is impressive. Extensive configuration capabilities are accessible, which is helpful because these capabilities can seem imposing to a first-time user. The main GUI screen offers a directory tree on the left side for selecting the management topic, an auto-discovered fabric topology map on the right. Multiple tables for configuration and statistics are accessed through tabs at the top.
Most impressive is the copy-and-paste configuration, which lets the user select any configured switch and apply all the same settings to any other switch. Locating particular devices or links also has been simplified: If the IP address of a switch or label of an inter-switch link is not enough, you can select the component you want from a configuration table, and its image is highlighted instantly in the fabric topology map.
The Fabric Manager also can readily push new software images out onto one or a group of switches. And new code could be loaded and activated under full operational load - without dropping a bit.