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Intelligent multiprotocol switches value propositions
1. Reduced downtime costs because of nonstop operations.
2. Reduced capital and operating costs because of fabric infrastructure consolidation.
3. Reduced infrastructure management costs because of one seamless multiprotocol fabric.
4. Reduced storage system costs because storage applications in the fabric mean backend storage can be less expensive systems such as JBOD.
5. Reduced storage management costs because of the centralization of storage functions such as disk-to-disk replication, remote mirroring, snapshot, etc.
Reduced downtime costs. The highly available switches means that key switches involved with fabric uptime is in the five nines category with less than six minutes of downtime per year. The high availability is provided for all fabrics that are connected. The downside is that disruptions in one fabric can cause disruptions in other fabrics; however, most of the products available and in development prevent that from happening. The value proposition accuracy: high.
Reduced capital and operating infrastructure costs. This is based on the premise that by consolidating storage networking infrastructures on a single multiprotocol switch it reduces or eliminates redundant switches, adapters, gateways, etc. Less hardware means reduced management. Centralizing on a single fabric switch infrastructure means one management system. However, the higher cost per port and higher maintenance pricing - usually based on a percentage of MSRP - typically means the savings from consolidation are nil. The value proposition accuracy: low.
Reduced infrastructure management costs. The premise is that smart switch is the single switch infrastructure for all protocols and fabrics. This is unlikely to be a common environment. Most IT operations are already using multiple fabric switches, which most likely won't be replaced. This means infrastructure management won't be reduced and potentially increased. The value proposition accuracy: low.
Reduced storage system costs. By moving some or all of the storage functions into the fabric switches, the perception is that the cost of the disk storage will decrease. The concept is that the intelligent switch becomes a very large scalable storage subsystem controller. It connects the back-end disk on the same fabric as the front-end servers. The premise is the combination of intelligent switches plus JBOD is cheaper than standard fabric switches and storage subsystems with RAID. This premise ignores the ongoing price decreases of storage systems with newer functionality and technology. The value proposition accuracy: low.
Reduced storage management costs. This is tied to the premise of moving some of the storage functionality from the subsystems to the fabric and centralizing it. This provides a single methodology for many business continuity applications (disk-to-disk replication, snapshot, server-less backup, remote mirroring, etc.,) sometimes NAS, and even volume allocation for heterogeneous storage. Unfortunately, unless it performs all of the storage management functions (such as RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 3, 5, disk defragmentation, etc.), it complicates the management by requiring multiple management points. Most of the products in development do not claim all storage subsystem functionality. The value proposition accuracy: low.
If high availability is critical, the value of these intelligent, multiprotocol switches is high. However, the other value propositions are low. And, there's one other caveat: These switches usually have measurably higher latency than fabric-specific switches. Of course, latency and block storage means less performance.
Before introducing any new technology, always qualify and quantify the value propositions. Then calculate the ROI using simple common sense techniques. As this evaluation of three new emerging technologies demonstrates, the value proposition accuracy varies significantly. In general, it's high for InfiniBand, medium to low for iSCSI and low for the intelligent, multiprotocol switches.
This was first published in October 2002