Storage-Area Nets Kick Into Gear

Last week, EMC Corp. in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, announced software to boost storage-area networking (SAN) security as well as support for several SAN hubs. And networking giant 3Com Corp. in Santa Clara, California, announced its entry into the SAN fray with a product line due early next year.

Analysts said the news supports projections for a booming SAN market. "[We] forecast that 37 percent of external server storage sold in 2002 will be in a storage network," said Robert Gray, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Massachusetts, a Computerworld sister company.

A SAN is like a back-end LAN that connects servers or clients with shared storage devices. Users can build SANs with other interfaces, such as Escon, but Fibre Channel is generally favored due to improved maximum distances and transfer rates (10km and 100M bytes per second, respectively).

EMC's new software, called Volume Logix, mediates access to storage volumes in shared subsystems. It is targeted at Windows NT storage networks because NT servers lack secure volume sharing and try to "own" all connected storage.

NO MORE OVERWRITES

With Volume Logix, EMC officials said users can connect multiple NT servers to a single port on an EMC Symmetrix array, via a hub, without the worry of overwrites. Fibre Channel hubs now supported by Symmetrix include those sold by Hewlett-Packard Co., Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and Siemens AG.

"We have a few NT servers connected to Symmetrix right now, and as we get more, it will make sense to go in through one point of contact, such as a hub," said John A. Hanaberry, CIO at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. in Louisville, Kentucky. "But we'll need software to manage it."

In September, Hanaberry's group consolidated 1.4T bytes of multiplatform storage on several EMC boxes. He said the effort was his first step toward a Fibre Channel SAN.

Thomas Lahive, an analyst at Dataquest in Westboro, Massachusetts, said EMC's Volume Logix announcement is the first of its kind among the major disk array suppliers. "It will make EMC's penetration of the NT-based SAN market much easier," he said.

3Com said it plans to release both a Fibre Channel hub and a server host adapter in the first quarter of next year. Developed through partnerships with Fibre Channel veterans such as Gadzoox Networks Inc. in San Jose, California, the products will start 3Com's new StorageConnect line and work with 3Com's Transcend network management software. The goal is to integrate all aspects of LAN, WAN and SAN management.

Mark Purdy, chief technology officer at Bloomberg LP's stock-ticker plant in New York, called the announcement "critical."

"I think people are looking to mix IP and SAN protocols on the same physical layer, and splicing these two together is a nasty subject," Purdy said. "We'll need experienced companies to help untangle the mess."

Lahive said the 3Com news means "users can now capitalize the 'N' in 'SAN.' "

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