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Connecting Multiple Blade Chassis and F/C Switches/SAN

  • 1.  Connecting Multiple Blade Chassis and F/C Switches/SAN

    Posted 02-05-2016 03:13 PM

    Hello all,

    I have an existing IBM Blade Center chassis with dual integrated Cisco MDS 9000 F/C switches connected to an EMC SAN.  I recently added a Dell M1000E Chassis with dual integrated Brocade M5424 switches to my environment, and am preparing to connect those switches to the SAN.  I'm a pure VMware shop, running ESXi 5.5/6.0 on the hosts in both the IBM chassis and the Dell Chassis.


    I'm wondering if there is a best practice for making the connections from the new Dell chassis + switches to the SAN.  Am I better off connecting the Brocade switches directly to the EMC SAN, or am I better off connecting the Brocade switches to the Cisco switches, and accessing the SAN via those switches.  Or a combination of both?


    The Cisco switches I have max out at 4Gbps, the Brocade at 8, and the EMC at 8, so it seems like a direct connection between the Brocade switches and the EMC SAN would be the most efficient, but there may be other considerations involved that I'm not aware of.


    I'd value any input or observations that others may have on this, and would be happy to hear of any recommendations as to the best way to make these connections, ideally along with the rationale behind them.


    Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this.




  • 2.  Re: Connecting Multiple Blade Chassis and F/C Switches/SAN

    Posted 02-06-2016 12:31 AM
    Mitchell, when you say "EMC SAN" what do you mean by that? If these are SAN switches sold by EMC, you'd better say who is the real maker of these switches: Brocade or Cisco, like you did in case with IBM blade chassis switches. If this is the disk array, and I bet it really is... Well, I always wondered why people say "SAN" about the disk arrays? Will you say "I have a NetApp LAN" when describing your NAS installbase?

    Please confirm what kind of "EMC SAN" do you have.

    But anyway, you'd better connect your new chassis directly to that "EMC" and you've already mentioned a good reason for this - the speed of connections in the equipment.

  • 3.  Re: Connecting Multiple Blade Chassis and F/C Switches/SAN

    Posted 02-07-2016 11:31 AM


    My apologies for the confusion.  In this case, the storage device is an EMC VNX array, and not, as you pointed out, a SAN.  I certainly should have been more clear about that in my original post.  The IBM Chassis (via the Cisco switches) and the Dell Chassis (via the Brocade switches) both connect ot the EMC array.


  • 4.  Re: Connecting Multiple Blade Chassis and F/C Switches/SAN

    Posted 02-07-2016 01:07 PM
    That's OK, it means that my little hidden skill of reading between the lines is still alive :)

    From what I see, in order to match the 8G line rate of both the disk array and the switches in the new chassis, you have two options: 1) The easy one: connect your new chassis directly to the disk array like the old one is connected and keep all of them running like this. The downside is that you will have to manage four independent fabrics, as each standalone switch is essentially a fabric; and moreover, two of them will be Brocade, and two - Cisco, so you'll have to use different tools for each pair. 2) The advanced one: first connect Brocades to the disk array and then migrate Ciscos behind the Brocades as NPIV. The advantage here is that you will only need to manage a pair of Brocade fabrics after that, because Cisco will become rather passive devices, essentially a big HBA for the blade chassis - they will not keep any zoning database etc... after that. The downside is that this is not just plug and play process, you will need to carefully migrate connections of all of your current production systems located in the older chassis.

    BTW, do you have any other FC attached devices, maybe a VTL, or a traditional tape library/autochanger? If yes, then the second scenario becomes even more applicable...