Many years ago a Glaswegian friend of mine quoted someone as saying that the 1981 anti-apartheid protests in New Zealand (South African rugby tour) showed that New Zealand was not just a floating Surrey as some had previously suspected. While the Surrey reference might be lost on those not from England, I can tell you there are some distinct cultural and language differences between NZ and England.
For example, there was a (not very good) punk band called ‘Rooter’ back in the late 1970’s in New Zealand. They ended up having to change their name to The Terrorways because ‘Rooter’ was considered too offensive by the managers of many pubs and clubs.
I guess that’s why in NZ we always pronounce ‘router’ to rhyme with ‘shouter’ even though we pronounce ‘route’ to rhyme with ‘shoot’. We’re kind of stuck in the middle between British and American English.
Pronunciation issues aside however, FCIP routers are a highly reliable way to connect fabrics and allow replication over the WAN between fibre channel disk systems. The price of FCIP routers seems to have halved over the last year or so, which is handy and live replicated DR sites have become much more commonplace in the midrange space in the last couple of years.
Apart from the WAN itself (which is the source of most replication problems) there are a couple of other things that it’s good to be aware of when assembling a design and bill of materials for FCIP routers.
- When you’re using the IBM SAN06B-R (Brocade 7800) we always recommend including the licence for ‘Integrated Routing’ if you’re going out over the WAN. This prevents the fabrics at either end of an FCIP link from merging. If a WAN link bounces occasionally as many do, you want to protect your fabrics from repeatedly having to work out who’s in charge and stalling traffic on the SAN while they do that. Without IR your WAN FCIP environment might not really even be supportable.
- Similarly I usually recommend the ‘Advanced Performance Monitoring’ feature. If you run into replication performance problems APM will tell you what the FC app is actually seeing rather than you having to make assumptions based on IP network tools.
- The third point is new to me and was the real trigger for this blog post (thanks to Alexis Giral for his expertise in this area) and that is if you have only one router per site (as most do) then best practice is to connect only one fabric at each site as per the diagram below.
The reason for this is that the routers and the switches all run the same FabricOS and there is a small potential for an error to be propagated across fabrics, even though Integrated Routing supposedly isolates the fabrics. This is something that Alexis tells me he has explored in detail with Brocade and they too recommend this as a point of best practice. If you already have dual-fabric connected single routers then I’m not sure the risk is high enough to warrant a reconfiguration, but if you’re starting from scratch you should not connect them all up. This would also apply if you are using Cisco MDS922i and MDS91xx for example, as all switches and routers would be running NXOS and the same potential for error propagation exists.