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Looking for an Alternative to Fibre Channel? A New Solution for Storage Area Networks.




By Wesley Smith

In today’s data center environments, it is
difficult to find anyone who is not either deploying, or thinking of
deploying a Storage Area Network (SAN).  For those of you who are not
as familiar with what I am talking about, a SAN is defined as a dedicated,
high-speed network that connects storage devices and servers. The purpose
of a SANs is to remove the general purpose network from storage-related
activity, thus freeing up bandwidth for application processing.

In today’s data center environments, it is difficult to find anyone who is not either deploying, or thinking of deploying a Storage Area Network (SAN). For those of you who are not as familiar with what I am talking about, a SAN is defined as a dedicated, high-speed network that connects storage devices and servers. The purpose of a SANs is to remove the general purpose network from storage-related activity, thus freeing up bandwidth for application processing.

Many vendors offer SAN solutions that
utilize Fibre Channel switches for the SAN infrastructure.  But, is
Fibre Channel the only technology out there for SANs? 

If you have not already installed a SAN, or
would like to look at alternatives, you might want to keep these next
comments in mind.  Companies typically base their computing
infrastructure on what will give the company its best return on investment
(ROI).  One of the factors in determining the ROI of SAN is the total
cost of ownership (TCO) the SAN will have.  Forgive me for getting
into the business side computing — believe me, if I had my way everything
in my network would be gigabit Ethernet and gigahertz Pentiums.  But,
unless you work for a smaller company, my dream land will rarely be a
reality.

A few things to think about before you
install a SAN is “what does it cost to own a SAN?”  Most
people today are not fluent in Fibre Channel so, you need to think about
special training required to support this new network.  Fibre Channel
equipment is what I would call “specialized.”   The
fact is, when design a SAN solution for your company, you are building and
designing a network.  But, you cannot just go buy a cheap (or
expensive) Ethernet switch from your local vendor and make a SAN work. 
You must purchase a Fibre Channel switch to allow your SAN devices
to connect to each other.  Don’t forget the Fibre Channel controllers
for your servers.  Cha-ching — I’ll let you fill in the approximate
amounts, but the cost seems to be going up, doesn’t it?

If you can put off a SAN for a few more
months you might consider a new technology called EtherStorage. 
EtherStorage is a new technology, being developed by Adapted ,that will
allow you to build SANs over standard Ethernet networks.  What
exactly is EtherStorage?  It is a new set of protocols that
encapsulates SCSI commands and data into Ethernet frames.  The
EtherStorage device will appear like a SCSI controller to a server, but
will connect to an Ethernet network via a RJ-45 connector.  This
allows companies to implement a SAN across an existing network
infrastructure. 

Since EtherStorage technology is built off
of SCSI and Ethernet technology, EtherStorate offers reliable SAN
connectivity locally, or across a WAN, using TCP/IP.  The best part
about this new technology is that the majority of IT professionals will be
comfortable designing and implementing this type of SAN since it is
identical to building an IP based Ethernet network.  Not to mention
the reduced TCO provided by using standard Ethernet switches (Gigabit
Ethernet is preferred by Adapted, but they claim that Fast Ethernet would
also work.  Standard Ethernet is not recommended.) that you can
purchase from your local vendor (which will most likely be covered under
your already established service contract).  Last, support and design
personnel will not have to have any specialized training. 

Now that you are aware of this Fibre
Channel alternative for a SAN, it is up to you to decide which path you
choose to follow.  Remember, the only correct choice is the one that
provides the best ROI for your company.  Part of being a IT guru is
staying on top of new technologies and ideas.  With the TCO potential
that EtherStorage has, this technology could make you the local SAN hero.
 

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