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Keeping sane amidst the standards conflagration

Fibre Channel? IP? InfiniBand? Here's more fuel for the debate.

"Duck and cover," the old Cold War A-bomb safety advice, might be the best bet for anyone trying to figure out the endless Fibre Channel versus IP versus InfiniBand debate. According to John Webster, an analyst at Nashua, NH-based Illuminata, common sense has become the first casualty in this ongoing standards war. "Proponents of IP storage run the risk of creating the same kind of hype versus reality disconnect that was generated around Fibre Channel not long ago," Webster says.

In a recent brief -- a prelude to what Webster promises will be a far deeper examination of the subject, due out in a few months -- Illuminata posed some of the questions with which storage professionals must wrestle. Should organizations deploy now, deploy half-heartedly, or wait altogether? With the current pace of Fibre Channel development, will IP begin to look like a viable alternative just as the pieces fall into place for Fibre Channel? And, at that point, will InfiniBand be close enough on the horizon to cause users, once again, to hesitate?

While avoiding answers to those questions, Illuminata goes on to warn that the qualities and characteristics of each interconnect need to be fully understood because of their significant impact on IT decision making. In short, server-to-storage interconnects are tools that are used to solve business problems; they are not religions.

"People have the impression that they will wake up someday, and one of these technologies will suddenly be dominant," says Webster. "I don't think that will happen because people are going to deploy to fit their application. This means the technologies will need to coexist."

Advice? Webster says don't get swept along by short-lived trends, and be sure to base deployments on hard facts.

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