IBM adds muscle to storage network line

While all Windows 2000 servers might look pretty much the same, IBM is attempting to differentiate its latest machines by delivering a complementary collection of storage-area network (SAN) products.

In addition to delivering the Netfinity 7100 and 7600, a pair of four-processor PC servers, IBM next month will introduce products that enable companies to zip information into and out of storage devices more quickly and to better manage networked storage resources.

IBM thinks it can turn the heads of Compaq and Data General SAN customers with its new line of FastT500 SAN hardware and software. For instance, the new Netfinity FastT500 RAID Controller Unit can handle data at up to 300M bit/sec, higher than the current standard of 100M bit/sec. The RAID Controller attaches to a group of storage devices and manages the flow of traffic in and out of them.

The controller can manage up to 220 disk drives (up to 8 terabytes of storage capacity) among a group of storage devices, up from the current capacity of about 60 drives. It costs $36,570.

Also new is the Netfinity Fibre Channel Storage Manager Partition Enhancement 1.0, which works with the controller to divvy up disk space on storage devices among different servers, applications and users. This Java tool is an add-on to IBM's Netfinity Fibre Channel Storage Manager software.

The $7,400 software can be used to give up to eight different hosts dedicated partitions on one storage device, rather than giving them each their own storage device.

This sounds intriguing to Chris Bond, president of Frantic Films, a Winnipeg, Manitoba, firm that uses four Netfinity servers to create digital special effects and computer graphics. He is interested in assigning users disk partitions for data storage in the initial stages of a project, then assign those parts of the disk to other users later during the project.

IBM also is announcing the Netfinity FastT Host Adapter Card, which fits in a Netfinity box. The card runs Fibre Channel traffic; it can also wrap IP packets inside Fibre Channel frames. This means that in the future, users will be able to run IP inside Fibre Channel at up 300M bit/sec, IBM says. The card costs just under $1,500.

The new servers, the 7100 and 7600, cost $7,000 and $9,940, respectively.

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