SANs Get an Optical Angle

SAN MATEO (06/12/2000) - Two optical equipment start-ups last week announced interoperability alliances and plans to link MAN (metropolitan area network) optical transport gear with SANs (storage area networks).

By marrying these technologies, the vendors hope to cut the cost of SANs, increase the distance over which SANs can be connected, and allow higher-density SANs to be networked over a single link.

"Using optics in SANs addresses a need that is real. Optical [equipment] increases distance, but it also gives you service transparency so it doesn't look like [your data] is travelling across a network. Performance won't take a hit with distance," said Chris Nicoll, director of optical infrastructure at Current Analysis, in Sterling, Va.

SAN protocols, such as Fibre Channel and ESCON, can push data a maximum distance of 100 kilometers, which puts limitations on how far a SAN can be located from a business (see related story, left). Leveraging MAN transport equipment extends that distance to 120 kilometers, but the increased bandwidth offered by optics also provides high availability for SANs and aggregation of multiple low-speed services onto one wavelength, thus driving down costs.

Optical start-up Alidian Networks Inc. announced two interface cards for its Optical Service Network product line as well as alliances with SAN vendors Gadzoox Networks and CNT Networks. Alidian's MetroSAN interfaces enable service providers to connect optical equipment with SAN devices, which allows isolated storage islands to be connected via the MAN.

Also this week, storage equipment vendor Inrange said it will incorporate Sorrento Networks' DWDM (dense wave division multiplexing) optical products into its storage networking product line for enterprises. Inrange has a line of data-centric SAN products that use WDM, but the company said Sorrento's MAN transport equipment brings greater distance and faster speeds at lower costs.

Putting storage on the optical expressway holds the promise to unlocking storage services for a wider audience, according to Nicoll.

"This [virtual storage] will change the economics of providing storage area network services and make it more available to a wider audience," Nicoll said.

Alidian Networks Inc., in San Jose, Calif., is at www.alidian.com. Inrange Technologies Corp., in Mount Laurel, N.J., is at www.inrange.com.

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