Post-Fibre Channel products are emerging

IT managers have a choice of systems equipped with interconnect technology that's different from tried-and-true SCSI or advanced Fibre Channel systems. But the choices are limited, and prices are steep.

In February, IBM announced the release of the 200i disk array. A fully outfitted, rack-mounted IBM 200i will top out at 1.7TB and cost just over $100,000.

In April, Cisco announced the shipment of the SN 5420, a storage router that connects Fibre Channel storage-area networks through IP networks. The network vendor is also working with crosstown Fibre Channel switch vendor Brocade Communications Systems Inc. in San Jose on a Fibre Channel to IP switch, the Catalyst 6500, which isn't shipping yet. The Cisco 5420 router, which has been shipping since April, encapsulates SCSI commands with IP headers for the iSCSI protocol.

Emulex Corp. in Costa Mesa, Calif., recently announced that it will produce an IP-based host bus adapter (HBA), the GN9000/SI, which will perform iSCSI over Gigabit Ethernet for Peripheral Component Interconnect-based systems. By placing the burden on the HBA, the device takes the load off the server.

San Jose-based Nishan Systems Inc., the first company to ship storage-over-IP products, began making generally available in February three switching devices and one software management tool based on iSCSI and iFCP protocols. The IPS 3000 is a hybrid Fibre Channel Gigabit Ethernet switch, the IPS 2000 switch is an iSCSI device, and the IPS 1000 is a gateway-to-gateway device.

According to Nishan, all three devices combine Gigabit Ethernet performance and interoperability with SCSI and Fibre Channel storage devices to enable the building of standards-based, manageable IP storage networks.

IP storage technology is based on data communications protocols that have been in existence for a decade and have robust security and management tools.

"So you have technology developing in storage for networking storage data that's almost inherently contradictory to what's happening in the rest of the communications workplace," says Tom Clark, head of technical marketing at Nishan Systems, referring to IP network development.

But analysts complain that there aren't enough products in production today to make much of an impact on the marketplace.

"In terms of native IP, Nishan and IBM are shipping a little but not enough to sneeze at," says Bob Zimmerman, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "Three years from now, that will be such a dramatically different statement that IP storage will be on par with Fibre Channel."

Storage market leader EMC Corp. is taking a wait-and-see approach to IP storage because of the technology's immaturity in the marketplace, says Doug Fierro, director of EMC's Enterprise Storage Network product management.

"Storage over Internet Protocol, from EMC's perspective, is probably a very good solution for long-distance data replication between storage systems across IP networks," Fierro says.


Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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