Nishan Systems opens SAN market to networking vendors

Adding a new twist to the old debate over IP versus Fibre Channel storage networks, Nishan Systems Inc. on Monday rolled out two IP storage switches that allow companies to scale storage using IP while maintaining their existing Fibre Channel install base.

With the Nishan 3000 Series Fibre Channel to Gigabit Ethernet switch and the 2000 Series SCSI to Gigabit Ethernet switch, Nishan wants to send a message to the industry that Fibre Channel itself is not the problem, but rather "it's the switch, stupid," said Randy Fardal, the vice president of marketing for San Jose, California-based Nishan Systems. Nishan's new switches replace only a network's Fibre Channel switches.

Once in place, the Nishan switches transfer Fibre Channel's "block" storage data to IP, which interoperate with multiple protocols and are capable of transferring or mirroring storage globally, via the Internet, Fardal said. He added that current Fibre Channel switches suffer from interoperability problems like separate management systems, making them a hassle to scale.

"What Nishan is really saying is that nobody is arguing the quality of block storage, Fibre Channel, which is a great thing. [Nishan is] trying to build products to allow you to go beyond Fibre," explained Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group in Milford, Mass.

"[Nishan] now offers the ability to create native IP storage and has the ability to now take those IP-oriented [storage networks] and connect them over metro networks, all using standard networking management tools," Duplessie said.

The idea of simply scaling outward using IP instead of swapping out an existing Fibre Channel network with all IP interconnects could have a radical effect on the storage market by suddenly allowing IP networking companies to compete with Fibre Channel companies.

"Nishan's strategy is interesting, " said Ashok Kumar, an industry analyst at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, in Menlo Park, Calif. "They are not directly aiming at Fibre Channel's [market leader], Brocade, but instead are providing the means for companies such as Cisco, Juniper, and Foundry to compete head-to-head with [Brocade]. The key is that Nishan's technology takes SANs [storage area networks] out of a specialized technology niche and plants it squarely in the path of Ethernet and IP."

Fardal said that with the new IP switches, Nishan is targeting the nearly US$93 billion install base of SAN-capable servers, disk arrays, and tape libraries currently in existence. The current install base of Fibre Channel switches is about $1 billion, Fardal said.

The 3000 Series switch is available for approximately $16,000. The 2000 Series can be purchased for approximately $10,000, according to Fardal.

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