Vendors Demo Coast-to-Coast IP SAN

By Dave Simpson

Claiming near wire-speed (1Gbps) performance, eight vendors have banded together to demonstrate cross-country connectivity between storage area networks (SANs) in Sunnyvale, CA and Newark, NJ. The demo was dubbed the "Promontory Project" after the location in Utah where the first transcontinental railroad was joined with a golden spike.

Participating in the project were:

Adaptec (iSCSI host bus adapters)

Dell (servers and Fibre Channel disk arrays)

Hitachi Data Systems (Fibre Channel disk arrays)

IBM (iSCSI disk arrays)

Intel (iSCSI host bus adapters)

Nishan Systems (IP Storage switches)

QLogic (Fibre Channel host bus adapters)

Qwest (IP WAN backbone)

Although Cisco did not officially join in the demonstration, a variety of its switches were used in the configuration.

In the demonstration, near-1Gbps (100MBps) speeds were achieved over 2.5Gbps (OC-48) and 10Gbps (OC-192) connections. For detailed statistics, visit http://stat.qwest.net/index_flash.html.

In addition to Fibre Channel and SCSI, the demonstration took advantage of a variety of emerging IP Storage protocols, including iSCSI, iFCP and FCIP, that are designed to adapt block-mode SCSI or Fibre Channel traffic to the TCP/IP protocol stack. All of these protocols are in the standards approval process in the Internet Engineering Task Force, and some are expected to be approved by the end of the year.

According to John Webster, a senior analyst with the Illuminata research and consulting firm, iSCSI maps the SCSI command set to IP, preserving the command set while replacing its transmission protocol with IP. iFCP is a gateway-to-gateway protocol used to link Fibre Channel devices via TCP/IP links, using TCP for congestion control, error detection, and recovery. FCIP links Fibre Channel SAN "islands" over IP using encapsulation to send Fibre Channel frames over TCP/IP links.

(For more information on IP Storage protocols, see "Fibre Channel vs. IP vs. InfiniBand, InfoStor, July, p. 56 and "Demystifying iSCSI, iFCP, mFCP, FCIP and iSNS," InfoStor, September, p. 66.)

According to Tom Clark, director of technical marketing at Nishan, the primary goals of the Promontory Project were to prove long-distance connectivity using block-level storage I/O over IP at gigabit speed, and to demonstrate interoperability between various protocols and equipment from different vendors.

Key applications for long-distance IP Storage include remote backup and mirroring, storage consolidation, business continuity and disaster recovery, tape vaulting, database replication, and content distribution.

Compaq and CNT

In a related demonstration, Compaq and Computer Network Technology (CNT) built a global storage network linking Fibre Channel SANs in Colorado Springs, Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and Sydney, Australia. The Compaq-CNT demo was based on the FCIP protocol and CNT's UltraNet Edge Storage Routers. Data replication and storage network management applications were handled by Compaq's SANworks Data Replication Manager and SANworks management software.

This article was originally published on October 17, 2001