Prime Ten Advantages of Upgrading from DCNM to NDFC SAN

Cisco Knowledge Middle Community Supervisor (DCNM) has lengthy been thought of the gold normal of SAN administration due to its stability, wealthy options, and large adoption. DCNM has been round and serving prospects very effectively for over 20 years. It was initially featured together with the launch of the MDS 9000 switches. Again then, it was referred to as Material Supervisor and this title is utilized in conversations even to this present day. That was the time when purposes used a monolithic design. Nevertheless, instances have modified, and over the past decade, software program improvement has undergone a complete makeover. As an alternative of a big monolith, nowadays an software is split into a number of microservices. Then, every of those companies runs in its devoted containers. This microservices-based design results in many advantages, corresponding to increased scale, improved safety, increased availability, and quicker improvement.

DCNM’s monolithic design, regardless of serving effectively for 20 years, is unable to unleash the complete potential of circulate visibility, real-time analytics, and better scale. As an alternative of making an attempt to retrofit these advantages into DCNM, we rewrote your entire software from scratch utilizing the microservices structure. Throughout this recent improvement, we additionally gave it a brand new title referred to as Nexus Dashboard Material Controller (NDFC).

Notice: The main focus of this put up is on NDFC SAN Controller.

Advantages of Upgrading from DCNM to NDFC SAN Controller

In January 2023, we launched the third main launch (12.1.2) of NDFC SAN Controller. This makes the right time to improve from DCNM to NDFC not simply because three is a magic quantity, but additionally due to ten causes that I’m sharing on this put up.

1. Upgrading from DCNM to NDFC is Free

We designed NDFC to honor the prevailing DCNM licenses. This funding safety turns into much more rewarding with the distinctive longevity of Cisco switches due to in-place upgrades to the upper speeds. For instance, prospects who purchased MDS 9710 with DCNM license in 2013 can improve to NDFC in 2023 utilizing the identical license. Simply to be clear, any newly bought Nexus and MDS switches nonetheless require new NDFC licenses. However NDFC will have the ability to handle any present switches you’ve already bought DCNM licenses for. Basically, it’s free to improve from DCNM to NDFC.

2. Energetic-Energetic Clustering for Excessive-Availability

The internet hosting platform of NDFC, referred to as Nexus Dashboard (ND), gives native active-active clustering. You’ll be able to deploy 3 nodes of Nexus Dashboard in a cluster after which set up a single occasion of NDFC on it. The person expertise for SAN Administration stays unchanged no matter 1-node ND or a 3-node ND cluster. Nevertheless, with 3-node cluster, ND mechanically distributes microservices on a number of nodes. If one node fails, the prevailing two nodes proceed to run NDFC. This achieves an unprecedented reliability for SAN Administration and Insights.

Energetic-Energetic clustering doesn’t exist in DCNM. It has a unique implementation for attaining excessive availability, referred to as Federation. However due to the dependency on an exterior Oracle RAC database, DCNM Federation will increase the whole value of possession. In distinction, Nexus Dashboard natively integrates distributed database companies for attaining active-active clustering. This design makes excessive availability of NDFC way more reasonably priced.

To this present day NDFC is the one SAN administration software program to supply a real extremely accessible structure to drastically enhance up-time and availability for SAN operations. In a time when down-time is solely unacceptable, this structure delivers piece of thoughts even on the community administration facet of the enterprise.

3. NDFC One View – Single-pane-of-glass Throughout A number of NDFC Servers

NDFC One View gives centralized administration and visualization of a number of SAN environments which are managed by completely different NDFC servers. Utilizing an executive-level dashboard of One View, you possibly can seamlessly navigate to a collaborating NDFC server utilizing Single Signal-On (SSO). This results in quicker troubleshooting and simplified Day 2 operations.

There isn’t a further license for NDFC One View. If you have already got DCNM/NDFC license for managing the switches, you can begin utilizing NDFC One View at this time with no further value.

DCNM doesn’t supply an identical function. In case you have a number of DCNM servers managing completely different SAN environments, getting a unified view throughout all these DCNM servers is feasible solely after upgrading to NDFC.

4. Increased Scale

Beginning 12.1.2 launch, NDFC can handle as much as 40K ports (earlier 20K ports) and as much as 160 switches (earlier 80 switches). This elevated scale helps to consolidate a number of DCNM servers in fewer NDFC servers, and therefore saves time, effort, and cash.

Moreover the material scale, SAN Insights can now monitor as much as 1 million I/O flows per NDFC server. When SAN Insights was first added to DCNM 11 in 2018, it may monitor 20K flows. Later, DCNM 11.5 elevated this scale to 60K flows. In 2021, the primary launch of NDFC 12.0.0 elevated the variety of monitored flows to 250K, which was additional elevated to 500K with 12.1.1 launch. Now, NDFC 12.1.2 can monitor 1 million flows delivering 50x enhance over the past 5 years.

This elevated scale gives two key advantages. First, it permits monitoring each circulate, which is required as a result of customers have no idea when and the place an issue might floor. SAN Insights constantly displays efficiency of I/O flows proactively and their historical past is accessible when an anomaly is detected (extra on anomaly detection shortly). The second motive is that even a cloth with only some switches can have a whole lot of 1000’s of flows. For instance, one buyer has 180K flows in a cloth of simply 4 switches. When accounting for twin materials, the circulate depend of their surroundings is roughly 380K. NDFC can monitor these environments in an always-on vogue and might scale occasion additional.

5. SAN Insights Anomaly Detection

Not simply monitoring, NDFC can mechanically detect anomalies in any of the million flows. You’ll be able to set the insurance policies of your selection or just activate the ready-made insurance policies in NDFC. For instance, NDFC can create an anomaly coverage to inform the admins when learn or write I/O operations to a LUN (for SCSI site visitors) or Namespace (for NVMe site visitors) takes longer than 500 microseconds. Anomaly detection helps in detecting storage efficiency points a lot sooner than software is affected.

This function of anomaly detection doesn’t exist in DCNM. Monitoring and the flexibility to detect anomalies in one million flows is feasible solely due to the microservices-based structure of NDFC.

6. Current DCNM Options

It’s not simple, however we are attempting onerous to exceed the excessive bar set by DCNM. Within the final two years, we’ve added (and redesigned) most DCNM options to NDFC, corresponding to zoning, efficiency monitoring, machine alias administration, interactive topologies, programmable stories, SAN Insights, VM integration, UCS site visitors visualization, config backup and restore, change picture administration, and a lengthy checklist of options. For the long-time customers of DCNM, particularly those that nonetheless use its Java GUI (referred to as thick shopper), the expertise of utilizing NDFC is completely different. I like to recommend beginning this transition ahead of later. Whereas making this transition, we’re open to your concepts for including new options and enhancing present options.

7. New Options and Administration of Newer Switches solely in NDFC

Not simply including present options from DCNM, however we’re additionally growing new options in NDFC. The important thing factors it that these new options are solely moving into NDFC. For instance, the brand new Configuration Monitor function mechanically detects any drift from a golden NX-OS config and generates alarms (Determine 1). This detects any unintentional modifications and helps in stopping harm to your surroundings.

Moreover new options, the newer 64GFC MDS switches (MDS 9124V, MDS 9148V, and later) can solely be managed by NDFC.

We nonetheless help DCNM and haven’t but introduced its finish of life. However we aren’t including new options and help for newer switches in DCNM. All of the innovation goes solely to NDFC.

ndfc san
Determine 1: NDFC mechanically detects and notifies drift in NX-OS configuration.

8. Run NDFC as a Bodily Equipment

Bodily equipment (referred to as pND) is a brand new deployment mannequin for NDFC. Like Cisco Nexus and MDS switches the place the {hardware} and software program (NX-OS) is absolutely supported by Cisco, the pND {hardware} and software program are additionally absolutely supported by Cisco. This reduces the dependency on different groups for deploying and sustaining NDFC.

NDFC SAN Controller will also be deployed on RHEL (referred to as rND) or as an OVA on ESXi (referred to as vND). We provide this flexibility in an effort to select the most suitable choice on your surroundings. For those who see worth in utilizing the bodily equipment (pND), that is another excuse for upgrading from DCNM to NDFC.

9. VM Site visitors Visibility

NDFC stitches end-to-end flows between VM and LUN (for SCSI site visitors). This makes VM-Initiator-Goal-LUN (VM-ITL) circulate in SAN Insights. For NVMe site visitors, an identical circulate known as VM-ITN circulate the place N represents a Namespace.

DCNM gives I/O flows at a granularity of ITL or ITN. Stitching these flows to a VM requires handbook correlation in vCenter. NDFC simplifies this step by mechanically correlating ITL and ITN flows with the VMs.

This VM-ITL and VM-ITN circulate visibility in NDFC results in a lot quicker decision of sluggish efficiency points.

ndfc san

10. Forestall SAN Congestion and Gradual-Drain utilizing DIRL

Congestion Evaluation function in NDFC (successor of DCNM Gradual Drain Evaluation) gives a topology visualization of the supply, trigger, and time of congestion. One other new function, referred to as Occasion Analytics, mechanically receives congestion alerts from the Port-Monitor function on the MDS switches. These new options in NDFC enable correlation and investigation of congestion points utilizing intuitive charts and developments.

Moreover detecting congestion, NDFC additionally permits configuring Dynamic Ingress Fee Limiting (DIRL), which is a novel innovation on MDS switches for stopping congestion. NDFC additionally visualizes the outcomes of DIRL that additional enable optimizing congestion thresholds.

These new enhancements for detecting and stopping congestion are solely accessible in NDFC. You’ll be able to proceed to make use of Gradual-Drain Evaluation in DCNM however the full good thing about Congestion Evaluation and skill to configure and visualize DIRL is feasible solely after upgrading to NDFC.

Learn how to Improve from DCNM to NDFC SAN?

We offer a software to simplify the improve from DCNM to NDFC SAN Controller. This software takes the backup of the found cloth, alarm insurance policies, server setting, and even the efficiency monitoring knowledge from DCNM and restores these to NDFC.

My private advice is to run DCNM and NDFC in parallel for some time. Then decommission DCNM solely after you’re comfy working NDFC. In case your automation infrastructure depends on DCNM, this strategy provides sufficient time to replace and confirm NDFC RESTful APIs.

Seek advice from the white paper for a step-by-step steering for upgrading from DCNM to NDFC.


We proceed to help DCNM and haven’t but introduced its finish of life. However new improvements and help for newer switches is accessible solely inside NDFC. With the third main launch, scale of one million I/O flows, stability, and newer options, now could be the right time for upgrading from DCNM to NDFC SAN Controller. Beginning this transition sooner provides sufficient time for a sleek improve, get conversant in the Nexus Dashboard platform, and confirm automation.

For those who prefer to see any new options in NDFC, please attain out to us by way of your account workforce or depart a remark beneath.


To study extra about NDFC, confer with the next assets.