SAN Management Dominates Show Floor

As SANs (storage area networks) grow, managing them becomes difficult. A number of new hardware and software products announced at Comdex are focused on managing SANs.

These are among the SAN announcements here this week:

- Prisa Networks (http://www.prisa.com) introduced Visual SAN, a software-based SAN management and analysis software. The software has two components: the VisualSAN Network Manager and VisualSAN Performance Manager. The VisualSAN Network Manager maps SAN architecture and logs SAN events in real time. The VisualSAN Performance Manager analyzes network performance on a SAN and pinpoints performance problems via user definable parameters. The VisualSAN suite is used to analyze and troubleshoot problems affecting performance on a SAN.

"VisualSAN is targeted at OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and SSPs (storage service providers)," said Ted Chen [CQ], executive vice president at Prisa Networks, adding that it would be available by the end of this year.

-- Xyratex Pvt. (http://www.xyratex.com), based in Havant, U.K., introduced three hardware-based SAN analyzers for desktops, notebooks and portable devices. Devices connect to SAN components and performance of Fiber Channel SANs is monitored and analyzed. The SAN analyzers conduct hardware-based SAN analysis and use software to translate the analysis on-screen.

Hardware-based SAN analyzers are better than software-based ones, said Neil Edmunds, senior technical officer at Xyratex, because hardware is more reliable than software. He also said hardware-based SAN analyzers don't exist on a network as an address, but as a component.

-- Sony (http://www.sony.co.jp) unveiled the DTF-2 Tape Drive for SANs. The tape drive can accommodate 200GB of uncompressed data, and 500G bytes of compressed data. "This is the fastest tape drive in the market today," claimed a spokesman at Sony's booth. He said the device is available now and interoperates with other SAN devices.

-- CMD Technology (http://www.cmd.com) demonstrated its Titan family of RAID (redundant array of independent disks) controllers -- the CRD 7400 Fibre Channel to Fibre Channel RAID controller and the CRD 7040 Ultra 160 SCSI RAID controllers.

CRD 7400 has mirror-cached imaging, nondisruptive online firmware updates, online RAID level migration and RAID set expansion.

Using the latest SCSI technologies, CMD claims Ultra160 SCSI can give rates of up to 160Mbps (bits per second), faster than the latest 1Gbps Fibre Channel. Also contained with the RAID controllers are RAID management software, which configures and manages the controllers.

CMD is working on standards that will be incorporated in the soon-to-be released FC2 standard, according to Simon Huang, chief executive officer.

-- To ensure interoperability between SAN components, the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) (http://www.fibrechannel.org) initiated the SANmark qualification program on Oct. 18, which subjects SAN products to a suite of conformance tests to ensure a product is interoperable with other components, be it hardware like network switches or hubs, or software that maps and manages a SAN. Twenty-three products were subjected to the SANmark test, of which 23 passed.

-- Agilent Technologies (http://www.agilent.com) introduced its new PCI to Fibre Channel Host Bus adapter (HBA), the HHBA-5220-1. The HBA adapter is capable of transferring data up to 2G bps. The product is an upgrade to the HHBA-5220, which can transfer data up to 200Mbps in half duplex mode, and 400Mbps in full duplex mode.

-- SerComm (http://www.sercomm.com), a server appliance provider, introduced its SOHO Server, a network attached storage (NAS) device targeted at home networks. The SOHO Server aims to act as a hub, a single storage device connecting multiple home devices that include standalone PCs, tape drives and modems.

-- SAN Valley Systems (http://www.sanvalley.com) introduced the SL1000 SAN over IP (Internet Protocol) device, which creates an end-to-end data tunnel over an IP network, ensuring error-free data transfer. While transferring data over an IP network, the SL1000 component on one end converts the data into a packet that is okayed by the SL1000 component attached to the SAN component on the other end.

SAN Valley doesn't buy the notion that transferring data from a server to tape backup over an IP network will mean the tape drive is filled with data errors. Some vendors at Comdex are contending that IP is an error-prone protocol.

"Things are needed to enhance IP, and manufacturers don't realize that," said Sandy Helton, co-founder and chief executive office of San Valley. "Quality of Service (QoS) exists, it just has to be used," to enhance the experience of transferring data over an IP network, he said.

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