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Firewire technologies not there yet

Firewire (1394) SAN

Is it possible to share the 1394 storage device via the 1394 switch? I want to make a SAN with all 1394 storage devices and switches instead of the expensive FC storage device and FC switch even though there must be very big performance degradation.

And, if sharing a storage device on an IEEE 1394 network, can I share data on the storage device using some kind of file sharing software such as SANergy, CentraVision, etc?


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I love questions like this because it forces me to dig deeper into different technologies. What I have found is that switching for IEEE 1394 is not there yet. The only firewire devices I have found to build a network are hubs and repeaters.

IEEE 1394 is a high-speed digital serial bus that allows both asynchronous and isosynchronous data transmission. It allows for connection of up to 63 devices on a single bus segment and up to 1024 segments can be hooked together to create a network. Devices can be added or removed non-disruptively from any segment. Traffic is isolated within each segment, but devices in other segments can be addressed and accessed. Since it is a serial bus, devices must arbitrate for the bus so only one device can use the bus at a time.

You can hook up everything from a digital video camera to a firewire capable RAID storage device. The current bandwidth is about 400Mbps though which lags current Fibre Channel speeds running at 2Gbps. IEEE 1394 is a great tool for digital video environments but not as robust as FC for low latency disk access.

Therefore, in my humble opinion, since performance does not seem to be a major issue for you, you may get better bang for your buck if you invest in a low cost FC HUB-based SAN. FC hubs are real cheap these days and the older FC HBAs, which can also be purchased cheap, can be used. This way you can get the faster speeds of FC and still create your SAN at a discount. FC-AL based SANs are almost as "plug and play" as firewire networks and can be added to a switched SAN fabric in the future as your needs grow.

For file sharing, you should stick to cheaper NFS or CIFS protocols running over a fast IP network. The solutions you mentioned will work over a SAN and provide speed benefits, but I assume you are working on a low-end budget and therefore want to reduce complexity and cost. Use what's best for what you are trying to do, FC for disks and IP for file sharing.

Chris

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This was first published in June 2003

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