Cisco Systems has upgraded the software for its MDS 9000 SAN (storage area network) switches, adding features such as reduced delays and routing between virtual SANs.

The routing feature, called Inter-VSAN Routing, is a key addition to the new software, which is called SAN-OS 1.3, said Rajeev Bhardwaj, product manager for the MDS 9000. It will let enterprises take advantage of both virtual SANs (VSANs) and centralised storage. Servers will be able to share common storage resources even if they are on different VSANs, which can be used to isolate SAN traffic for security and network scalability. The routing feature can even be used across geographically dispersed sites, according to Cisco.

Cisco is also bringing QoS (quality of service) to the storage switch platform, so administrators can differentiate among different kinds of storage traffic and give some types priority over others. That means delay-sensitive traffic, such as online transaction processing packets, can be treated differently from other kinds of traffic, such as packets for data warehousing, Bhardwaj said.

The new MDS 9000 operating system also will support two features for more efficient data transfer, using FCIP (Fibre Channel over Internet Protocol). Bhardwaj said that an FCIP Compression feature cut down on the amount of data traveling between the main site and a backup location, reducing the enterprise's cost for expensive wide-area bandwidth. He added that a Write Acceleration feature reduced the amount of back-and-forth messaging between source and destination, cutting down on the delays this traffic can cause over long distances.

In addition, the software allows enterprises to start using the MDS 9000 to connect storage resources with mainframes that use the FICON (Fiber Connector) protocol.

Also with the new software, servers and storage switches can authenticate themselves to each other before they start exchanging data, he said. To do this, SAN-OS 1.3 supports FC-SP (Fibre Channel Security Protocol), an emerging industry standard from the International Committee for Information Technology Standards. It is designed to prevent intrusions into SANs by unauthorised systems.

Cisco has also enhanced its Cisco Fabric Manager network management tool in the new OS. Now it offers centralised management of multiple physical network fabrics, continuous discovery, health and event monitoring and historical performance monitoring that gives administrators the power to drill down and study a particular part of the SAN.

The software, which will be sold by original storage manufacturer (OSM) partners such as IBM, should be available to end users within 60 days, Bhardwaj said. OSMs will set pricing, he said.