By Dave Simpson
Gadzoox Networks and Lucent Technologies are partnering to develop a specification that will enable the transmission of Fibre Channel traffic over Inter-net Protocol (IP) networks, such as Gigabit Ethernet. If approved, the technology would allow IT organizations to connect Fibre Channel-based storage area network (SAN) "islands" over LANs, metropolitan area networks (MANs), and wide area networks (WANs). Potential applications include distributed storage, backup, and replication/mirroring.
In an FC-over-IP architecture, routers link Fibre Channel SAN "islands" over an IP network.
According to Dave Tang, vice president of marketing at Gadzoox, the IPFC spec should be ratified by the end of the year. However, products could appear sooner. For example, Gadzoox plans to ship in the third quarter a router that includes a Fibre Channel
connection and a Gigabit Ethernet connection. The router technology was acquired in part through Gadzoox's acquisition of SmartSAN Systems earlier this year (see InfoStor, April, p. 9). Gadzoox demonstrated the router, code-named Black Widow, at last month's Networld+Interop show in Las Vegas.
The IPFC specification, which has been submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for standards approval, encapsulates Fibre Channel data in IP packets (i.e., Fibre Channel traffic is tunneled over IP). This is in contrast to running SCSI over TCP/IP, a technology that has been proposed by IBM and Cisco, as well as Adaptec and other vendors (see related stories on cover).
"SCSI over TCP/IP is more of a re-architecting of the storage-server interconnection, where you're actually sending SCSI commands via TCP/IP," says Tang, who acknowledges that SCSI-over-TCP/IP may be a compelling solution in the future. But, he adds, "Our methodology can be implemented in the relatively near future."
"SCSI encapsulation in Fibre Channel with Fibre Channel encapsulation in IP [the IPFC methodology] may be a crude method of getting data from one place to another, but it leverages a lot of the work and infrastructure that's already in place," says Tang.
In an IPFC environment, the connected Fibre Channel SANs (with the exception of the border switches or routers) are unaware of the IP network interconnecting the SAN islands. The proposed standard would use Fibre Channel specifications, including FCP, encapsulating Fibre Channel frames in IP packets.
For more information on the IPFC specification, visit www.ietf.org/html.charters/ipfc-charter.html.
In a related move, Gadzoox has certified its Capellix Fibre Channel switches to operate with Computer Network Technology's (CNT) UltraNet Open Systems Gateway, which links SANs to WANs.
Meanwhile, CNT's UltraNet Open Systems Gateway already supports Fibre Channel-over-IP networks (as well as ATM via the ANSI FCBB standard), which CNT sometimes refers to as "SAN over IP," via a CNT-developed storage transport protocol. The gateway supports both 100Mb Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet, enabling users to link Fibre Channel SANs over TCP/IP networks, while providing data compression, alternate routing, and load balancing.
CNT is participating in a number of ANSI and IETF committees, and plans to submit its technology for standards review. "We're shipping product now, and as the standards evolve we'll change our software to comply if necessary," says Mark Knittel, vice president of marketing and business development at CNT.