Big iron boys target SANs

Posted on July 01, 1998

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Big iron boys target SANs

By Dave Simpson

A number of vendors with considerable expertise in the mainframe arena have set their sights on the emerging, and potentially lucrative, market for storage area networks (SANs). In addition to the obvious--EMC and IBM--examples include Computer Network Technology (CNT), General Signal Networks, McData, and Storage Technology.

This month, StorageTek`s Network Systems Group launched a SAN initiative under the umbrella term StorageNet. In addition to SANs, the strategy encompasses network-attached storage and management software and services.

The initiative comes on the heels of a number of SAN-related point product announcements and OEM agreements. For example, StorageTek resells Fibre Channel hubs from Vixel, and Fibre Channel bridges from Crossroads. This month, StorageTek announced an OEM agreement with Brocade to resell its 16-port SilkWorm Fibre Channel switches, which STK dubs the StorageNet Fibre Channel Switch 4000. The $48,000 device supports both copper and fiber media.

This fall, StorageTek is expected to introduce its own Fibre Channel communications product--the StorageNet FC Access Device--which the company refers to as an "intelligent port-switching hub." The 32-port device will support up to 16 Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loops, and users can assign ports to any loop. Like other mainframe market vendors, StorageTek chants the data center mantra: reliability, availability, and serviceability.

Also this fall, McData Corp. is expected to release its Fibre Channel-based ED-5000 Director, which is essentially a beefed-up switch with added availability, bandwidth, management, and port count features. The ED-5000 includes 32 ports, compared to 16 for most other high-end switches. (EMC is McData`s largest shareholder.)

Like StorageTek, McData is taking a phased-in approach to providing soup-to-nuts SANs, which the company refers to as enterprise storage networks. In addition to the forthcoming director, McData resells enhanced Fibre Channel switches from Brocade, as well as its own management software.

McData also plans to phase in FabricPaks, which combine hardware, software, and a variety of SAN-related services. A FabricPak for Sun environments is due in the third quarter, and an NT version is expected in the fourth quarter.

McData is known primarily for its mainframe-based ESCON Director. The company sells 60% through OEMs, 30% to systems integrators and 10% direct to end-users.

Another vendor that earned its stripes in the System/390 market--Computer Network Technology (CNT)--is taking a protocol-diverse approach to SANs. CNT sells three levels of communications gear under the umbrella name UltraNet: a director, gateway, and multiplexer. The UltraNet director is essentially a high-end switch with conversion technology. The switch supports ESCON, SCSI, ATM, and T3/E3; Fibre Channel support is expected within a month. In addition, CNT`s director can extend over wide area networks (see figure).

CNT last month introduced a dual-protocol gateway, which is resold by IBM in its InfoSpeed product line. Fibre Channel support is due by the end of the year. CNT`s multiplexer is resold by vendors such as Exabyte and IBM.

This month, CNT introduced the UltraNet Wave Multiplexer, which is based on wave detection multiplexing technology. The mux allows users to multiplex multiple fiber connection on a single fiber line in order to build Fibre Channel backbones.

General Signal Networks` latest move into SAN territory is its ESM/9000 Enterprise Storage Manager family, which was introduced in May. The servers are based on IBM`s Adstar Distributed Storage Manager (ADSM) software and Windows NT, but can be used to manage storage across a variety of environments.

The ESM/9000 supports ATM, Gigabit Ethernet, standard Ethernet, Token Ring, and FDDI networks connections, as well as SCSI, Fibre Channel and ESCON channel connections. Prices start at $121,500.


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