Lucent, Vixel deliver Fibre Channel over IP

By Dave Simpson

Lucent Technologies recently began customer trials of a version of its OptiStar EdgeSwitch that can handle OC-12, OC-48, Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel traffic. Production shipments are scheduled for the first quarter.

According to Jason Baim, senior product manager at Lucent, the switch is designed primarily for high-speed aggregation of Gigabit Ethernet traffic over an optical WAN backbone (such as OC-12 or OC-48), and delivery of storage traffic over a WAN via a "Fibre Channel over IP" module. In this scenario, the switch maps the Fibre Channel protocol to the Internet Protocol (IP). The IP Layer 2/3 switch sits at the edge of a data center, linking LANs, SANs and WANs.

Lucent developed the Fibre Channel-over-IP module, or "blade," in conjunction with Vixel, a manufacturer of Fibre Channel hubs, switches and management software. The blade incorporates a full-function switch engine based on Vixel's 7100 and 7200 series Fibre Channel switches.

The OptiStar EdgeSwitch has four slots for modules, with two ports per module, for a total of eight ports. Users can configure the switch with any combination of OC-12, OC-48, Gigabit Ethernet, or Fibre Channel ports.

The Fibre Channel part of the OptiStar EdgeSwitch is based on an early implementation of a Fibre Channel-over-IP standard (dubbed IPFC) that is in development in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The IPFC standard originated with Lucent and Gadzoox Networks, but a number of vendors have since joined the development effort, including Brocade Communications, McData, QLogic and Vixel. A draft of the specification has been released for industry comment.

Lucent plans to target carriers and service providers in applications such as disaster recovery, remote backup data replication, streaming media, content delivery, and storage on demand.

Configured with Fibre Channel blades, Lucent's OptiStar EdgeSwitch is expected to compete with a switch under development by Cisco and Brocade (see InfoStor, July, p. 1). Cisco has licensed Fibre Channel technology from Brocade, and the two companies will jointly develop a Fibre Channel interface -- including E_Port technology -- for Cisco's Catalyst 6000 switches. According to Cisco officials, the Fibre Channel-enabled Catalyst switches will hit the market "in the first half of 2001."

Lucent's OptiStar EdgeSwitch will also compete with existing products from Computer Network Technology. CNT's UltraNet family of gateways and directors allows users to link Fibre Channel SANs over IP networks, which CNT refers to as "SAN over IP."

Lucent's Baim says that the OptiStar EdgeSwitch will be priced at $50,000, fully configured.

In storage environments, Lucent's OptiStar EdgeSwitch will also compete with products from vendors such as NetConvergence (InfoStor, October, p. 10), Nishan Systems (June, p. 16 and October, p.10), and SAN Valley (September, p. 20).

Fibre Channel over IP technology will also compete-- and perhaps be complementary with -- emerging technologies such as the iSCSI specification under development in the IETF. iSCSI will allow users to run SCSI over TCP/IP networks (June, p. 1). The specification's major developers include Cisco and IBM.

Lucent plans to support iSCSI, but Baim notes that the standard may be in development for years. "We will support iSCSI as our customers need it, but we see Fibre Channel over IP as a first step that our customers need now," says Baim. "There's still a lot of intelligence that has to be put in the network and in the backbone network before you can start doing iSCSI."

OptiStar EdgeSwitch: Key specs


  • Non-blocking 22Gbps switch fabric
  • Layer 2/3 switching and routing
  • High speed (up to 2.5Gbps) WAN connectivity
  • OSPF and BGP4 routing protocols

Network modules include:

-OC-48c Packet over SONET (one port)
-OC-12c Packet over SONET (two port)
-Gigabit Ethernet (two port)
-Fibre Channel (two port): Available Q1 2001

This article was originally published on November 01, 2000