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Merrill short on evidence for Cisco charge. (Storage News Review).

Strong allegations made against Cisco Systems Inc's storage networking hardware by merchant bank Merrill Lynch were made on the basis of very little evidence, a source close to the situation has said.

According to a report issued by the bank yesterday, Cisco Systems Inc's storage switch could be suffering a technical problem that has prevented EMC Corp from fully qualifying the device. The bank also said that Cisco isn't even using the hardware in its own data centers. The statements were part of a note in which Merrill explained its decision to upgrade the earning estimate and stock recommendation for Brocade Communications Systems Inc, Cisco's storage networking rival.

Cisco's recently launched MDS 9000 SAN switch and director hardware was based on technology originally developed by start-up Andiamo Systems Inc. In its report, Merrill said: "Cisco itself does not run Andiamo in its data center. Until Cisco is 'eating its own dog food,' no IT shop is going to deploy Andiamo in a production environment."

But a source close to the situation told ComputerWire that the bank's only evidence that Cisco is not using its own SAN gear were statements made by Brocade and McData. Brocade CEO Greg Reyes made the claim in his company's earnings last month. A spokesman for McData said: "All we ever told the financial community up until March was that we were the supplier of choice for Cisco."

Cisco's head of technical marketing Tom Nosella said: "We have just over 1,000 ports deployed on the MDS 9000--about 40% of Cisco's total SAN ports. That's between 300TB and 400TB behind the MDS 9000." Cisco's SANs, operating in multiple data centers, are mostly based on McData hardware, with some Brocade edge switches also deployed, Nosella said. The rest of Cisco SANs will be cut over to the MDS 9000 by the end of the year, he added.

Merrill's statement that the MDS 9000 could be suffering from technical problems was mostly based on the statements of one user, who was among a "handful" that the bank spoke to, according to ComputerWire's source. That user was the only one that complained of the specific symptom of disordered frame delivery referred to in Merill's report, according to the source.

In its report Merill said: that "we understand" that the error rate for Cisco's device is much higher than for rival hardware, and that it "could be" causing frames to arrive out of order. "Performance takes a major hit. As out of order frames are a particular issue for tape, it is interesting to notice that EMC's certification of Cisco does not include tape devices."

A spokesman for EMC Corp confirmed Cisco's claim that the process of certifying the MDS 9000 was split into two phases, and that Cisco's hardware was expected to be qualified for use with EMC's tape backup-related software during the next quarter. EMC declined to say whether it had experienced the MDS 9000 delivering packets out of order.

"Whether it is an issue, or a non-issue, we don't say anything about qualification testing. That shouldn't be read into in any way," a spokesman said.

Cisco said that other suppliers that have qualified the MDS 9000 for use with their tape devices are IBM Corp, Quantum Corp, and ADIC--Advanced Digital Information Corp. Qualification by Hewlett Packard Co is targeted for the end of June. StorageTek qualification is expected shortly.

Merrill also pointed out that EMC's storage management software does not handle the MDS 9000. EMC said that a software update to cover the Cisco hardware will ship in the fourth quarter.
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Publication:MarketWatch: Storage
Date:Jun 24, 2003
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