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IBM teams with Cisco for IP SANs

Kevin Komiega

IBM expanded its reach in the IP storage market Tuesday by becoming the first of Cisco System's storage partners to offer the Cisco MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module for the Cisco MDS 9000 Family of SAN directors and fabric switches. IBM also announced today that it has "significantly" lowered the pricing on its full line of Cisco MDS 9000 Family.

Cisco's trio of IP products were designed to expand Fibre Channel SANs to additional servers and applications within data centers and departments over local, metro and wide area networks. The IP Storage Services Module supports both iSCSI for host connectivity and FCIP (Fibre Channel over IP) for long distance SAN connectivity.

"This is a suite of products for SAN multi-protocol SAN extension over SANs, MANs and WANs," said Edward Chapman, senior director of product management for Cisco's storage technology group.

He said the new IP storage networking devices will extend applications such as replication, mirroring and backup over IP.

According to Cisco, the MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module, the FCIP Port Adapter and the SN 5428-2 Storage Router connect Fibre Channel-attached devices using the iSCSI and FCIP protocols. The MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module is an 8-port card for Cisco's 9000 family of storage switches. They can support both iSCSI and FCIP simultaneously on each Gigabit Ethernet port. The FCIP Port Adapter is aimed at users looking to connect their existing SANs over long distances.

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The SN 5428-2 Storage Router is an upgrade to the 5428 SAN switch.

Nancy Marrone-Hurley, senior analyst, Enterprise Storage Group Inc., Milford, Mass., said the advent of Cisco's IP storage modules is more than just the evolution of IP for the MDS product family. "It's more of a 'blessing' by IBM of iSCSI and FCIP as storage networking technologies," she said.

Marrone-Hurley said Cisco has been supporting iSCSI and FCIP for a few years now, but there has not been too much traction as none of the big storage vendors have put a stake in the ground in support of iSCSI, until now.

"This move shows that IBM believes that enterprise organizations will want to combine IP technologies for networking storage in workgroups and remote offices, and potentially connect them into the FC network. The combo switch reduces the costs as users don't have to purchase a separate chassis for both infrastructure technologies," she said.

There is little doubt that Cisco's other storage switching partners like Hewlett Packard Co. will move in the same direction. "They have been big proponents of iSCSI in the past and we expect they would want to have this module available for their customers," she added. "EMC is a different story; they have not been too verbal about iSCSI support, so they may not adopt this module quite as quickly as IBM or HP."

The Cisco MDS 9000 SAN switch portfolio available to customers through IBM and IBM business partners now includes the Cisco MDS 9509 and 9506 Multilayer Directors, Cisco MDS 9216 Multilayer Fabric Switch, the Cisco MDS 9000 IP Storage Services Module, the Cisco MDS 9000 Port Analyzer Adapter for analysis of Fibre Channel traffic anywhere on the network and Coarse Wave Division Multiplexing (CWDM) Small Form Factor (SFP) interfaces.

IBM has a laundry list of storage hardware working with the Cisco switches, including the TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server, IBM TotalStorage FAStT family of midrange disk arrays, TotalStorage Enterprise Tape System and Enterprise Tape Library, as well as the IBM TotalStorage UltraScalable Tape Library and Ultrium Scalable Tape Library. IBM Tivoli storage software provides discovery and monitoring for the Cisco MDS 9000 family, with future support being developed.

According to Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst, Taneja Group, Hopkinton, Mass., this deal merely completes the offering and recognizes that remote SANs need to be connected with local SANs.

"That happens with either iSCSI or FCIP. Cisco is providing both in this service blade. Of course, over time, I believe Cisco's game is still iSCSI, with FC just a springboard to get there," Taneja said.

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Let us know what you think about the story, e-mailKevin Komiega, News Writer

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