Sprint Dials Up FCIP Distance Record

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Sprint , along with Hitachi Data Systems and strategic partner Cisco , has set what the company claims is a Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) distance record.

Sprint says it successfully tested asynchronous data replication over an IP network, using FCIP technology, at a distance of more than 3,600 miles.

Sprint has no plans to make the service commercially available yet, but said the breakthrough “could have major implications on how customers deploy effective business continuity strategies.” The company’s Global Markets Group will continue to pursue the possibilities of offering it as a commercial service, a company spokesman says.

“This could enable customers to replicate their mission-critical data at extremely remote locations while using their existing cost-effective IP connections, further protecting them from potential disasters that could occur at a company’s headquarters,” says Oliver Valente, Sprint’s vice president of Technology Development.

“Government regulations, for example, may soon require some companies, especially in the financial and healthcare markets, to be able to replicate their data at out-of-region locations,” Valente says. “Until now, feasible distances for remote replication using this technology were typically in the 37- to 45-mile range, more of a metro-area scenario.”

The demonstration was conducted using an FCIP connection originating from a Sprint lab located in Overland Park, Kan. Optical cross-connect devices at Sprint’s Burlingame, Calif., lab created a continuous loop back to the Overland Park lab, simulating a point-to-point FCIP connection spanning 3,600 miles. The equipment used to create the link included private Sprint circuits, Cisco MDS 9000 storage area network (SAN) switches with Cisco MDS 9000 IP Storage Services modules, and Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 V Series systems running Hitachi TrueCopy data replication software.

Audrey Harman, Technical Staff Manager at Sprint’s Concept Realization Center, said a 125 GB Oracle database made the 1,800 mile point-to-point connection in 3 hours 8 minutes. The 3,600 mile loop took just over 4 hours. Both tests proved data integrity at 100%.

FCIP allows customers to transfer backup data via their existing IP network connectivity without having to purchase expensive fiber to their premises or very expensive DWDM transport, according to Harman. Currently, large enterprise customers utilize DWDM solutions, which are often too expensive for mid-size and smaller customers.

Harman said the partners looked at iSCSI, but did not do distance testing on it since it was only recently adopted as a standard. “It is too early in the
adoption cycle for us to consider at this time,” commented Harman. “We will consider iSCSI later this year.”

iFCP was tested in 2001 by Nishan Systems at a distance of 2,800 miles, Harman reported, but the Sprint, Cisco, and HDS test is the first the companies know of for FCIP at long distances. iSCSI has been tested over greater distances.

“Cisco has always viewed FCIP as an enabling technology for cost-effective business continuity and disaster recovery solutions, especially over extended, wide-area distances,” said Soni Jiandani, vice president of marketing for Cisco’s Storage Technology Group. “This demo is real-world proof of the value that network transport technologies such as FCIP can deliver in extending SAN traffic well beyond the data center environment.”

“Hitachi Data Systems is keenly aware of the need to safeguard mission-critical data, not only locally, but also across long distances for disaster recovery and business continuance,” said Marlene Woodworth, vice president and general manager of Global Marketing at HDS. “We are pleased to demonstrate to the world that we have the technology today to deliver asynchronous data replication with ultimate reliability and maximum security to customers.”

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for Time.com, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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