SANs Seek Adoption by SMBs Page 3


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In Search of Durable but Low-Cost Fabrics

In combination with economical storage and economical server connectivity, SAN interconnects are the third component facing cost reduction. After enjoying years of high margins on fabric switches, traditional Fibre Channel switch vendors are aggressively moving towards entry-level switches to service the mid-tier market and enterprise branch opportunities.

McDATA , for example, has introduced a low-cost 12-port Fibre Channel Sphereon switch based on a single ASIC that can be economically expanded in 4-port increments. This solution enables a small business or enterprise branch to install a single platform while only paying for additional ports as needed over time.

Lower cost IP storage gateways such as the Eclipse 1620 are also being introduced for mid-tier applications that link modular Fibre Channel storage with iSCSI hosts. Pending the arrival of more native iSCSI storage arrays, IP storage gateways enable customers to build economical SAN solutions that exploit the lower cost of Ethernet and new lower cost Fibre Channel modular storage. In addition, tape vendors such as SpectraLogic are shipping both iSCSI and Fibre Channel tape subsystems, giving the customer the flexibility to select which interface best suits their fabric needs.

Making SANs available and affordable for the broad small and medium business market is the fulfillment of a central goal of storage networking: to make shared storage ubiquitous and more easily deployed. Lower cost iSCSI and Fibre Channel products will foster SAN adoption by tens of thousands of additional businesses, which will in turn stimulate new opportunities for SAN innovation and further cost reduction.

This scenario is what is supposed to happen with viable technologies. Once the tough technical issues have been resolved and a technology has proven its end-user value, its spread throughout the user community can be very rapid — if the price is right.

Tom Clark
Director, SAN Technology, McDATA Corporation
Author: Designing Storage Area Networks Second Edition (2003) (available at Amazon.com), IP SANs (2002) (also available at Amazon.com).

» See All Articles by Columnist Tom Clark

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