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Nishan's new software hauls more data over IP

Nishan has released a new version of its switch software, called a "major microcode" upgrade, which could make moving data over long distances more efficient.

Nishan Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., a supplier of IP storage solutions, has announced the availability of the third release of software for its 3000 Series and 4000 Series of IP storage switches.

The new version expands support for data compression, SAN internetworking and a pair of technologies called fast write and jumbo frames.

Tom Clark, Nishan's technical marketing manager, called the new software release a major microcode upgrade.

"We made it a point in the product design to be able to upgrade different versions of iSCSI drivers and enhance processing within the switch, which [gives us] enhanced long-haul features," Clark said.

A big problem in storage area networks (SANs), according to Clark, is linking disparate SAN islands over long distances. The new software moves more IP storage data over long distances for disaster recovery, business continuance and remote tape vaulting operations.

Clark said that, with adaptive compression, speeds of up to 25M byte/sec can be achieved. "Customers can use lower link speeds to get a fair amount [of] traffic across the link," he said.

"Customers have [storage] configurations with different levels of Brocade or McData switches and are trying to get these things together," Clark said.

The new compression technology identifies repetitive patterns in a data stream and compacts it, allowing for more data to be sent across a network. jumbo frames are designed to support larger packet sizes than the traditional 1500-byte packet size used by Ethernet. Network equipment supporting Jumbo Frames can accept packet sizes of up to 9000 bytes per packet, which allows more data to be delivered per packet and reduces processing overhead of packet headers, Nishan said.

When servers and storage are separated by distance, a normal SCSI data exchange can clog the bandwidth available in the wide area link. Nishan IP storage switches incorporate a fast write option to preserve SCSI protocol exchanges, while utilizing the available bandwidth across wide area connections.

Release 3.0 enhances Nishan's support of wire-speed iSCSI-to-Fibre Channel protocol conversion and provides logical unit number (LUN) virtualization for iSCSI-based servers.

Robert Gray, research director of worldwide storage systems at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass., said that there is a whole segment of users who are really looking forward to adding another application to their Ethernet networks. These are conservative spenders who saw moving into Fibre Channel as too rich for their blood and too time-consuming for their personnel.

"These are people who buy in to the advantage of storage consolidation and see that Fibre Channel has been very difficult and expensive. They want the benefits of it without the overhead costs that come with it," Gray said.

Gray added that these types of users would not be dissuaded if the first generation of iSCSI products has its problems.

"The benefits of single infrastructure management tools are so huge for these people that it doesn't matter if there are compatibility issues or the performance is half that of Fibre Channel," Gray said. "It's about comfort and what will work."

Also new to Nishan's IP storage switches are troubleshooting capabilities, like ping for testing network connectivity, trace-route for diagnosing network paths through gateways and IP routers, E_Port (expansion port) diagnostics to identify Fibre Channel switch interoperability issues, command line interface (CLI) accessibility via telnet for remote diagnostics, and embedded hardware diagnostics to verify hardware integrity.

Nishan's switch line now supports SNMP (simple network management protocol) information for device discovery and configuration through third-party storage resource management (SRM) applications. SRM applications can discover the Nishan switches, present a topology of the Fibre Channel connections and report operational status of Nishan switches.

The multi-protocol IP storage switches support Fibre Channel switching, Gigabit Ethernet switching and wire-speed conversion between Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet.

Clark said Nishan has seen a significant ramp up in customer adoption in recent months and, with the arrival of the completed iSCSI specification close at hand, does not expect a slowdown in IP storage interest any time soon.

In September, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) announced that work in the iSCSI specification had been completed and passed along for ratification, bringing the emerging technology into the mainstream.

The SNIA defines iSCSI as a protocol that maps the SCSI remote procedure invocation model on top of the Internet's Transport Control Protocol (TCP) to produce a transport mechanism for storage over Ethernet. In other words, iSCSI encapsulates SCSI commands into TCP packets, which enables the transport of I/O block data over IP networks. Because iSCSI allows for data storage networks to be transmitted on Ethernet networks, the management of networked storage can be handled without having to learn a new technology such as Fibre Channel.

It has long been predicted by industry pundits that the advent of iSCSI will bring about rapid development of the SAN market by bringing SAN technologies to small and medium-sized businesses.

Nishan has another feather in its cap. Storage hardware maker LSI Logic Storage Systems Inc., Milpitas, Calif., certified Nishan's IPS 3300 and IPS 4300 switches last week.

The certification means the two companies' products will interoperate in several storage configurations using both Fibre Channel and IP networking.


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Nishan and ATL tackle remote vaulting over IP

Let us know what you think of this story. E-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer

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