Nishan readies SoIP switches

By Dave Simpson

In May, startup Nishan Systems promised to ship "Storage over IP" (SoIP) products by year-end, and the company may actually beat that deadline by delivering IP storage switches as early as next month.

Fresh off its third round of funding, totaling $50 million, Nishan last month provided a glimpse of the upcoming products. The company plans to deliver storage switches that will be available in three modes:

  • A straight Fibre Channel switch.
  • A Gigabit Ethernet switch.
  • A hybrid switch that supports both Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet. This switch will work with existing Fibre Channel products such as host bus adapters (HBAs), disk subsystems and tape libraries, and will convert Fibre Channel traffic to Gigabit Ethernet IP traffic for use in local SAN, MAN, or WAN environments.

In a WAN environment, SoIP technology would provide an alternative to existing tunneling approaches. However, Randy Fardal, vice president of marketing at Nishan, claims that, vs. tunneling, SoIP will provide better performance, significantly lower prices, and better manageability (because it's based on native IP).

SoIP could also be used to create local SANs, providing an alternative to Fibre Channel-based SANs. (For more on SoIP, see InfoStor, June 2000, p. 16.)

In addition to the hybrid Fibre Channel-to-Gigabit Ethernet switch, Nishan also plans to deliver a SCSI-to-Gigabit Ethernet IP switch.

Next year, Nishan plans to deliver with its partners SoIP adapter cards that are loosely analogous to Fibre Channel HBAs or Ethernet network interface cards (NICs). The SoIP adapters will take SCSI commands from the host and translate, or map, those commands into native IP addresses at layers 3 and 4. Until those products ship, however, IT shops can use existing Fibre Channel or SCSI HBAs. The traffic from those adapters is converted at the switch level to Gigabit Ethernet IP traffic.

However, to build a "pure" IP SAN, end users will need storage subsystems that support Gigabit Ethernet IP protocols. "Next year, you'll also see RAID arrays that support Gigabit Ethernet and 10Gigabit Ethernet," Fardal predicts. However, this would require RAID and/or controller manufacturers to support this functionality at the controller level.

Competing "standards"?

Nishan's SoIP is only one of the IP storage techniques being proposed. For example, Adaptec is working on "EtherStorage" products that are due around the middle of next year. And IBM, Cisco, and others have submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) a proposal dubbed iSCSI. (For more information on all of these proposals, see InfoStor, June 2000, p. 1.)

Most industry analysts, as well as vendors, think that the various IP storage proposals will coalesce around a single standard, or at least compatible standards.

"I think you'll see us all playing together because we're all aware that if we don't that will give supporters of alternative technologies time to conquer some of their problems," Fardal predicts. "We won't delay in reaching agreement on these various IP storage standards."

The IP storage standards coalescence may begin as early as December, which marks the next meeting of the IETF group that is working on these standards. That meeting will take place in San Diego.

Nishan's $50-million third round of financing brings its total funding to $90 million. Investors include companies such as Dell Ventures, Quantum Technology Ventures (the investment arm of Quantum Corp.), Sun Microsystems, Siemens Venture Capital, and several undisclosed investors.

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Vice president of marketing, Nishan Systems

This article was originally published on October 01, 2000