Vendors strive to validate IP storage solutions

IP (Internet Protocol) storage networks are the latest trend in SAN (storage area network) development, with vendors keen to show IP connectivity can work and to stress its benefits in terms of disaster avoidance and recovery.

Compaq Computer Corp. says it demonstrated a global SAN using Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) last week at the opening of its Enterprise Storage Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and Nishan Systems Inc. Monday announced that it had demonstrated a successful coast-to-coast U.S. IP storage network.

With most SANs using Fibre Channel technology, distance has been the main drawback to global storage, said Compaq spokesman Mark Stouse.

Last week's Compaq demonstration linked Fibre Channel SANs in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Sydney, Australia and Nijmegen using IP and a CNT Corp. router. It was designed to show that the SANworks storage network management system could query the SAN-connected devices on the different continents and replicate the data in a simple data file using SANworks Data Replication Manager, Compaq said.

This was "a demonstration of technological prowess" to show what could be done using Compaq and CNT's technology, said Stouse.

No other company has managed to do this on an international scale, Stouse said. "We are further ahead than anyone else," he said.

This global replication is the first step in a four-year plan to deliver global storage networks, said Gary Wright, Compaq's director of enterprise storage marketing.

Five or six vendors are now working with Compaq to have their routers certified as compatible with IP-based SANs, said Wright. "There is a lot of interest in IP; people are very happy with Fibre Channel, but they recognize that since they already have IP in place, it would be nice to be able to leverage that. The two are compatible and bringing them together is the lowest-cost solution," he said.

Nishan Systems' Promontory Project, a collaboration of eight IT companies to prove the viability of IP as a storage technology, was another attempt to prove the IP SAN concept, said Gary Orenstein, Nishan Systems project director.

Nishan Systems worked with Adaptec Inc., Dell Computer Corp., Hitachi Data Systems Corp, IBM Corp., Intel Corp., QLogic Corp. and Qwest Communications International Inc. on the joint project. Nishan aims to show that the technology can work using companies' existing systems, said Orenstein.

Many large companies have IP infrastructures already in place, so it is a logical step to extend that to storage, he said. "They may need to expand it, but the resource already exists."

There have been questions about whether IP fulfills speed and other requirements for a SAN, said Orenstein, but some of that is "propaganda" from the Fibre Channel providers, said Orenstein.

"We're trying to show that IP is capable and can do everything that Fibre Channel can and more."

To date, Nishan Systems has only shown a U.S.-based coast-to-coast IP SAN, but Orenstein said he is confident that could be expanded overseas. The partners involved are already looking at implementing the technology globally for their own storage systems, he said.

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