Cisco MDS Series Review

Good reliability, integration, and support

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case is as a standard SAN (single-site), and metro-SAN (10-15km between datacenters). Both types of switches, fixed and directors, are used.

How has it helped my organization?

There's no big choice in SAN, but if you have Cisco UCS blades, the choice is obvious.

MDs have good integration, a single point of management (DCNM), and support from the vendor. Also, CVD guides are very helpful in the design stage. They have the same CLI as on the Nexus models, which also helps in administering.

What is most valuable?

MDS's reliability is at a high level. The issues with these switches are extremely rare, and the whole product line is very predictable and stable. 

What needs improvement?

The licensing model could be less complicated.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using the Cisco MDS Series for approximately five to seven years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Haven't faced with major issues, so, i can say that it just works.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability depends more on the chosen architecture ad topology, than on the specific device. The MDS directors are highly scalable and upgradable, but if the wrong model was chosen on the first stage - nothing can fix the problem of higher costs and downtimes.

How are customer service and technical support?

Quite fast reaction on the cases, just as it should be. 

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

There's no big choice on SAN market - either Brocade (now is part of Broadcom) or Cisco MDS line. I worked with both, and both are high-quality products, but I prefer MDS if there's a choice. 

How was the initial setup?

If everything was planned before - there was no major problems. Some installations must have more detailed planning and consultations with vendor (especially in case if you have long-distance links between switches than others, but in general, the product has very good documentation and support, so I can't say that the installation is complicated if it's planned correctly. 

What about the implementation team?

Mostly we implemented it by our team. In rare cases there was a communication with vendor engineers, mostly in complicated installations with many vendors involved, and they were very helpful. 

What was our ROI?

Never calculated :).

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

SAN is highly critical component (actually, i'm not sure is there's something more critical than it), so my recommendation is to have your own trained and experienced staff, who will work with the partner or SAN vendor directly before purchase. Only in this case the choice of the topology, models, configurations and licenses will fit to your organisation's infrastructure. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

It depends, but sometimes Cisco gives better pricing than Broadcom, and the choice also depends on the other equipment of DC. For example, if you already use Nexuses in DC and also use DCNM, you may want to use DCNM to manage the SAN, which makes MDS more obvious choice.

What other advice do I have?

The only advice is to invest in the staff education.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We're cisco's partners and provide system integration and support of their (and not only their) products for our customers.
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