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Hot storage technologies for 2010

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Simon Galton, manager of IT infrastructure services at the Mississauga, Ont.-based company, said the decision to go to the higher speed switches was opportunistic rather than highly strategic, as AECL has no plans at this time to go to 8 Gbps in its HBAs and disk arrays. Because 8 Gbps FC is compatible with earlier generations of the technology, a forklift upgrade isn't required. You just won't get the full benefit of the higher speed until you have 8 Gbps capability across the board.

Moving to 8 Gbps can improve I/O response time and prove especially useful with bandwidth-intensive applications, such as backup and data warehousing, and for virtualized server environments.

Ryan Perkowski, the SAN manager at a large financial institution, has justified 8 Gbps switch ports only for backups. His company purchased a pair of Brocade 5100 switches with three 8 Gbps ports each to link its disk/tape backups and Brocade DCX core.

But the connections between the host servers and the DCX are still 4 Gbps, as are the links between the DCX and storage arrays. Perkowski said he won't expand the 8 Gbps footprint until the firm's major storage vendor offers native ports. "There's no business need for it," he said. "We're having trouble saturating a 4 Gig link. I'm not going to buy stuff just to have it."

The

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pace of the shift from 4 Gbps to 8 Gbps has been slower than it was from 2 Gbps to 4 Gbps among the Fortune 1000, according to Robert Stevenson, managing director of storage technology at TheInfoPro Inc., a New York City-based research firm. He attributed the sluggish uptake, in part, to the economy's effect on IT spending.

Other contributing factors include the increasing interest in 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) for file-based network-attached storage (NAS) or iSCSI SANs, as well as curiosity about Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). Any major FCoE adoption, however, will likely happen beyond 2010.

Meanwhile, 8 Gbps technology will likely see a marked uptick as the price gap with 4 Gbps continues to narrow. Seamus Crehan, vice president of network adapters and SAN market research at Dell'Oro Group, noted that 8 Gbps switch-side port shipments grew 50% quarter over quarter and became a majority of total Fibre Channel port shipments for the first time since the technology started shipping.

Also, 8 Gbps HBA port shipments doubled between the first and second quarters to nearly 60,000. Crehan cited the March launch of Intel Corp.'s Xeon 5500 (previously codenamed Nehalem-EP) server platform, which offers substantially higher server I/O throughput, as a major driver.

This was first published in December 2009

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