Startup Pirus Building Storage Net 'Uber-Switch'

With a variety of proposals pending in the Internet Engineering Task Force for routing storage across IP networks, Pirus claims its new IP storage device will work with all of them.

The Pirus device, with its Fibre Channel, Gigabit Ethernet and SCSI connectivity support, will let servers, storage and network-attached storage (NAS) devices, IP and Fibre Channel switches on storage-area networks (SAN), WANs or LANs join together to improve storage data transmission across corporate networks.

A variety of storage and network vendors have proposed storage network technologies with the IETF. For example, Gadzoox Networks Inc. and Lucent Technologies Inc. have proposed Fibre Channel over IP, which lets a storage administrator route SANs across a metropolitan-area network using dense wave division multiplexing. IBM Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. have submitted a draft that suggests running SCSI storage data over TCP and avoiding Fibre Channel altogether. SAN Ltd. has submitted plans to use the Service Specific Connection Oriented Protocol - which is used in ATM - to route storage data over IP using a protocol that lets data be retransmitted selectively if problems occur.

The unnamed Pirus device will route, switch and bridge multiple protocols over a variety of links, among them X.25, frame relay and ISDN. The box can be configured to join IP switches with Fibre Channel switches, to join NASs to a SAN, or to improve communications between a number of heterogeneous Windows NT, Unix, NetWare or Linux servers and a SAN. It will route or switch data between these devices as requested. Pirus expects the product to ship this year.

"Of every product I've seen, Pirus is the only company doing a large, director-level chassis that can mediate any protocol or communication link," says Steve Duplessie, an analyst with Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Massachusetts .

Ancor Communications Inc., InRange Technologies Corp. and McData Corp. have directory-level Fibre Channel switches. Unlike Pirus' box, they are limited to only Fibre Channel technology. "You could call the Pirus chassis the 'uber-switch' for storage area networks," Duplessie says. With the Pirus device, storage administrators can expand their SANs by adding blades for whichever technology they want to use.

There is only anecdotal evidence concerning the size of the storage-over-IP market. Mike Kahn, an analyst with Clipper Group Inc. in Massachusetts says conversations with users suggest switching to an IP network can reduce data transmission costs by as much as 50%.

Pirus estimates the size of the storage-over-IP market will be more than $US2.5 billion by 2003.

Founded in December by network veterans Rich Corley and Chris Cochran, Pirus is pouring $US10.2 million of venture funding into developing its IP storage device. The company has 48 employees, 36 of whom are engineers.

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