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Move over Tony Bennett

By Alan Earls

Tony Bennett, the perennial Jazz crooner, made his mark on American culture with the hit song, "I left my heart in San Francisco." Colin Rankine, a vice president and research leader with Giga Group, probably has no similar ambition, but if a song refrain were written to summarize his most recent report it might be, "I left My SAN because of Cisco," and it might become as much of a hit, at least in storage circles.

His report paints an ominous portrait of SANs as increasingly too complex and too expensive for most users, particularly in light of plans for SCSI over IP (NAS) promulgated by Cisco, IBM and Sangate. "I can't claim to be completely original in my concern," Rankine admits, citing sporadic complaints from IT pros saddled with SAN responsibilities over the past 18 months. Now, though, Rankine says the alternatives are either available or on the near-horizon.

The problem with SAN, says Rankine, is that it duplicates existing infrastructure for the sake of performance -- and usually adds enormous complexity. "There are few heterogeneous SAN solutions that involve less than 5-7 vendors and many have 10 or more," he says. Couple that with the extreme shortage of storage-literate professionals, and you have a real problem.

By contrast, argues Rankine, alternatives like Gigabit Ethernet, while arguably less efficient, offer reasonable performance using familiar technology. "The world is already wired for TCP/IP, and there are lots of people with Cisco skill sets around," he says.

Will SANs become obsolete? For most applications, yes, says Rankine. "I don't want to create a panic," he says, "but I think by 2003 or so, this will be pretty evident."

About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, Mass.

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