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Cisco touts product number two, remains protocol neutral

Paul Gillin

Cisco Systems, Inc. today will expand its growing presence in the storage networking market with the introduction of an optical multiplexer designed for use in metropolitan-area storage environments.

The move extends Cisco's year-long foray into storage networking and emphasizes its strategy of remaining independent of vendor or protocol. In fact, Cisco will share the stage with EMC Corp. and IBM - who are bitter rivals - when it demonstrates the new ONS 15540 Extended Services Platform at Networld + Interop in Las Vegas next week, said Carl Engineer, director of marketing for Cisco's enterprise line of business.

''We're trying to bring a lot of what we've learned in data networking and routing to storage,'' Engineer said. ''You'll see much stronger relationships between Cisco and storage vendors.'' He added that Cisco intends to stay out of the various standards battles going on in the storage industry by supporting all major standards.

This is Cisco's second storage-related announcement in the last month. In April, Cisco debuted the SN 5420 Storage Router, which supports storage networking over IP networks.

The ONS 15540 is a dense wavelength division multiplexing system that aggregates traffic onto an optical backbone for offsite storage applications. The modular product supports up to 32 wavelengths and up to 2.5G-bits/sec. of throughput per fiber pair. It supports Gigabit Ethernet, Escon, Ficon, Fibre Channel and Sonet protocols.

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Future releases will handle such tasks as mixing multiple services on a single wavelength and scaling up to 10G-bit/sec Ethernet, Cisco said.

The product should help jump-start the market for outsourced storage, which is attracting the attention of network service providers, said Anna Reidy, an optical networking analyst at RHK, Inc., a market research firm. ''A number of service providers are trying to turn storage area networking into public networking,'' she said. The Cisco entry packs a higher port density than competing products and includes a roadmap for future support of switching and 10 Gigabit Ethernet, which provides investment protection, she said.

The base price of the ONS 15540 is $67,000, with availability in June. Total price varies, depending on the number of client and DWDM interfaces purchased.

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