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New directions for switches

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The "V" word
One word that just won't go away is virtualization. Michael Passe, a senior systems engineer with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, believes that virtualization will move to the switch, he just doesn't know when. So in the meantime, vendors are working overtime to rebrand virtualization technology in terminology that resonates better with end users. Vendors now refer to it as network-based volume management, provisioning or a storage controller, anything but the dreaded V word. Despite their efforts not to play up this feature, every vendor with the exception of CNT now either offers this feature natively in their switch OS, has partnered with someone such as EMC or Veritas to bring their technology into the network or has purchased the technology.

Vendors that offer it natively in the switch OS show up primarily as the new kids on the block, be it Candera, Maranti Networks, Maxxan or Sanera. Candera offers its Network Storage Controller that acts like an appliance on the network that manages storage and works with the existing network infrastructure. Their approach complements, rather than replaces the existing infrastructure, akin to how IBM Corp.'s Storage Volume Controller (SVC), DataCore's SANsymphony, Softek's Provisioner and FalconStor's IPStor products work.

High-end

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storage switches
**Acquired by McData, *Assumes 1Gb, +Assumes 2Gb

Maranti, Maxxan and Sanera all elected to incorporate their technology into their high-port count directors. Again, this solution can either complement or replace an existing SAN depending on what problem you're trying to solve. If you have a fairly static environment and one group of individuals handles all zoning and storage allocations, you may want to look at replacing your existing technology with their solution. However, users remain leery when it comes to storage and replacing their existing solution with a new one that promises to solve all of their problems. Here's where a solution such as is offered by Candera may make more sense because it allows for an organization to gradually step into this environment.

McData's acquisition of Sanera Systems allows them to join the ranks of Brocade and Large vendors with a storage virtualization solution. Cisco obtained technology similar to Sanera Systems when they acquired Andiamo. While Brocade, by acquiring Rhapsody Networks, obtained a solution that more closely aligns with Candera.

So as the rush to put down roots in the fabric continues, existing FC switches will remain a mainstay in the enterprise. The future promises to be pretty much like the present: new players come out of stealth mode, and the established switch companies continue to form more alliances and tighter integration with existing storage players. However, all this frantic activity will not overshadow the critical functions FC switches perform in the enterprise today. In the longer term, of course, major switch vendors see the need to adapt to, merge with or acquire their new neighbors in the fabric or risk being replaced by these new fabric inhabitants.

This was first published in November 2003

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