Long-range SAN solutions

SAN over IP is bubbling up, but there are different protocols and so forth being used. This tip discusses the options.

Long-range SAN solutions
Rick Cook

Betting on new technology is always an enterprise fraught with excitement. If you bet right, you're an innovator and a hero in your company. Bet wrong, and you wasted a lot of money. This tip discusses the different ways now being offered for long range SANs. You can't tell the players without a program.

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The idea of a SAN that works at a distance has been attractive almost since SANs were invented. Evolving technologies and standards are making such "WAN SANs" increasingly practical. Already most of the major vendors, many of the smaller ones and a number of start-up companies have announced switches and other products that will allow long distance SAN architectures. However the products are new, diverse and no clear-cut winner has emerged in the technology race.

Even among the companies that are using the IP protocol, there are several different approaches. As in most new technology efforts, one will eventually win out, but in the meantime, there are competing options out there. Some, like Cisco (www.cisco.com) and IBM (www.ibm.com), are sending SCSI packets over IP. Others, such as Gadzoox (www.gadzoox.com) and Vixel (www.vixel.com), are sending Fibre Channel packets over IP. Nishan Systems (www.nishansystems.com) has its own procedure using what it calls storage over IP.

Over somewhat shorter ranges (60-100 miles, say from the financial district in Chicago to back-office centers somewhere in the suburbs) Fibre Channel extenders and multiplexers are being used. Among the companies offering equipment for these approaches are Finisar Corp. (www.finisar.com) and Nortel Networks (www.nortel.com).


Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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This was first published in September 2001

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