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IP and FC are likely to complement each other for specific needs. While IP will fit well with the SMB market, it will also serve portions of the enterprise market. For example, a company that has a large FC SAN may also choose to connect some servers to the SAN via IP which can be more cost effective than FC. How will IP interact with FC?
There are a number of companies providing IP to FC conversion switches. iSCSI may be used to connect large numbers of inexpensive servers to centralized FC storage through such a product. Can I build my IP SAN with Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) switches, or is there a specific "storage" switch platform requirement?
Yes, you can build your IP SAN with regular GbE switches. Depending on your performance requirements you may want to invest in GbE switches that support more sophisticated features like Virtual LANs so you can segment some of your traffic. Are there any intelligent IP switches, like we are seeing in the FC space?
The underlying connectivity (IP or FC) resides far below the intelligence layers of features such as replication. IP switches have had sophisticated capabilities (like multicasting) far longer than FC switches. In fact, many of the advances in FC switching are based on developments in the IP networking industry. Are TOE cards really necessary?
If performance requirements are high, TOE cards will help. Otherwise, they may not be necessary. Where can I find more information on IP storage and iSCSI?
SearchStorage.com has an enormous amount of information on IP storage. Here are some links to get you started:
Creating an iSCSI SAN using only Ethernet switches
Guide to implementing iSCSI
Top ten IP storage tips