Software designed to smarten up Cisco storage switches

Startup Incipient this week launched software for Fibre Channel director-level switches that it says better enables customers to manage data across storage-area networks.

The Incipient Network Storage Platform (iNSP) initially resides on Cisco's MDS 9000 Storage Services Module (SSM), a blade that fits in Cisco's multilayer director switch. The blade uses a split-path architecture, in which most I/O is routed through a fast path and few I/Os run through the control path. Using this architecture allows the switch to process information at near line speeds. Additional SSMs loaded with Incipient software can be added to scale performance.

The Incipient product is one of the first of its kind. Maxxan offers something similar, though on a Fibre Channel swtich of its own. EMC, IBM and StoreAge offer appliances that attach to storage switches and provide virtualization and other storage services, and Falconstor sells host-computer based virtualization software.

The iNSP is designed for SANs handling more than 50TB of data. It provides data migration between heterogeneous and tiered storage environments, all while the arrays are online.

Jeff Boles, IT manager for the U.S. city of Mesa, Arizona, says he has kept a close eye on this segment of the market and was Incipient's first beta test site. Boles has used the software to migrate data between storage platforms, including EMC Symmetrix and HP's Enterprise Virtual Arrays.

"Without iNSP, we would have used a much more expensive product from HP to move data and used some other approach for Symmetrix data," he says. "That Symmetrix software would have been host-based and not in the fabric."

One iNSP feature allows point-in-time copies to be made. Virtualization capabilities of the software include volume management and the ability to stripe, concatenate, partition and mirror data, as well as provision the storage array.

A centralized management interface allows IT personnel to manage multiple iNSP nodes in one domain. It can be accessed from both a command line interface and a Storage Management Interface Specification API.

The product, which Incipient expects to make available as soon as November, starts at US$137,500 per blade. A two-node redundant and fault-tolerant configuration is recommended.

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