IP Steals Spotlight at Storage Show in Phoenix

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Many of the country's largest systems vendors and storage technology specialists have converged at the Storage Networking World 2003 event in Phoenix this week to announce new wares, or demonstrate how their existing products work with vital emerging standards.

New products introduced
Not surprisingly, many of the new products concern IP-based storage, and consist of iSCSI (define) offerings and Fibre Channel (define) products. Cisco Systems Monday unveiled three IP storage networking products that will allow customers to expand their Fibre Channel storage area networks (SANs) to additional servers and applications within data centers across large distances.

In a demonstration of how major vendors are designing products that accommodate the two main connectivity standards, Cisco's MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module, FCIP Port Adapter for the Cisco 7200 and Cisco 7400 Series and SN 5428-2 Storage Router connect to Fibre Channel-attached devices using the newer iSCSI protocol or mainstay Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) protocol.

Due in June, MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module is an 8-port line card that can support iSCSI and FCIP on each Gigabit Ethernet port. At $9,995, the FCIP Port Adapter is geared for customers who have already deployed multiple Fibre Channel SANs and need FCIP to interconnect these SANs over long distances. An upgrade, Cisco SN 5428-2 Storage Router offers FCIP capability on the platform's two Gigabit Ethernet ports, which also support iSCSI. It is priced at $11,995.

For San Jose, Calif.'s Cisco, the move is a considerable upgrade to its storage networking suite because it offers customers the ability to choose from any combination of Fibre Channel, iSCSI and FCIP technologies to build or expand their SANs. This choice is something analysts have been stressing as iSCSI has been finding its way toward maturity.

More broadly, IP storage networking makes it easier and less expensive for organizations to deploy storage area networks (SANs) for e-mail, database, disaster recovery, LAN-free backup, consolidation and other storage applications because it uses standard Ethernet components. IP SANs use Ethernet components to reduce costs of networked storage.

"IP storage networking technologies take advantage of connectivity provided by IP to extend the value and utility of Fibre Channel SANs," said James Opfer, Research VP with Gartner Dataquest. "iSCSI offers very favorable incremental cost for each additional server connected to a SAN, especially for small servers where the cost of Fibre Channel host bus adapters is prohibitive. FCIP is a SAN extension technology that allow users to interconnect SANs well beyond the reach of pure Fibre Channel, making it useful for business continuity applications."

Frequent Cisco partner Adaptec joined the SNW party Monday, too, releasing what it claims are the first ASIC-based IP storage networking host bus adapters built on iSCSI. The Milpitas, Calif. firm's goal is to help midsize companies migrate from direct-attached storage to network storage.

The Adaptec iSCSI Adapters 7211C and 7211F feature an Adaptec TCP/IP offload technology that moves processing of TCP/IP packets out of the operating system and implements it in hardware on the card to reduce CPU utilization. The adapters support Windows 2000, Windows NT and Redhat Linux and support for copper (7211C) and fiber (7211F) media.

With the help of Network Appliance, Adaptec has conducted beta deployments of IP SAN products for such customers as Trimble, Sandia Labs and the University of Michigan. The adapters support e-mail, database, CRM and ERP, consolidation, disaster recovery and LAN-free backup on Windows and Linux platforms.

The ASA-7211C and ASA-7211F retail for $660 and $715, respectively. The cards are now shipping to distributors and resellers and are under evaluation by major OEMs.

Also, Adaptec rival QLogic Monday unveiled 4-gigabit-per-second Fibre Channel products to ease the industry transition to 10 gigabit architecture.

SNW wouldn't be right if it didn't feature a dizzying number of standards interoperability demonstrations from vendors, their partners and standards groups, such as the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).

SNIA Monday said storage networking vendors of the SNIA Supported Solutions Forum (SSF) will embark on the largest demonstration of interoperable Fibre Channel switches at the show this week.

The demonstration will consist of heterogeneous storage area networks (SANs) built with switches and storage devices from SNIA SSF members including Cisco, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, IBM, INRANGE Technologies, McDATA, QLogic and Sun Microsystems. The availability of the previewed multivendor SAN switch products is slated for this summer.

Analysts argue switch interoperability is a key factor in building and managing heterogeneous SANs because it enables IT staffs to interconnect devices from different storage vendors within the same fabric. End users will also be able to build on that by building "edge products" such as IP storage routers and blade servers that host embedded Fibre Channel switches.

Phil Mills, chairman of the SNIA Supported Solutions Forum, described the multivendor switch demo is an examples of vendors who have put aside their competitiveness to work for the good of the customer and the industry."

While multivendor switching is important, it's hardly the only demonstration at SNW. Many industry experts will no doubt anxiously await Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S,