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SANcastle announces its GFS-8 global fabric switch

SANcastle announces its GFS-8 global fabric switch

SANcastle Technologies announced general availability for its first product, the GFS-8 global fabric switch. Founded in 1998, SANcastle is a startup whose sole product is a Fibre Channel/Gigabit Ethernet switch. Based in San Jose, CA with research and development facilities in Yokneam, Israel, SANcastle received $20 Million in a second round of financing in August 2000 from Genesis Partners and the Concord Venture Partner Group. The Infinilink GFS-8TM Global Fabric Switch was announced in May 2001.

The GFS-8 is designed to connect Fibre Channel SANs across Wide Area Networks (WANs). SANcastle's Infinilink GFS-8 Global Fabric Switch uses an intelligent, switch-based architecture providing seamless, bi-directional data movement between Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet infrastructures using a TCP/IP delivery backbone. Because the Infinilink GFS-8's OpenIP architecture is protocol-independent, no special software drivers or component changes are required to install and operate the GFS. Additionally, the support for new technologies such as iSCSI and Infiniband can be added with a firmware upgrade if/when the market requires it. The Infinilink GFS-8 is initially offered in three configurations: 7x1, 6x2, or 4x4 Fibre Channel E_ports or F_ports x Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The Infinilink's OpenIP architecture is a cut-through mesh architecture, providing full port-to-port bandwidth connections. Like Fibre Channel fabric switches, the OpenIP architecture features guaranteed in-order frame delivery, zoning, and IP tunneling. The Infinilink GFS-8 also features VLAN tag zoning to allocate resources across the Fibre Channel /Gigabit Ethernet boundary. NT- or Windows 98-based SANman management software is used to configure and manage the Infinilink GFS-8.

Evaluator Group comments

Now that Fibre Channel SANs have been established as viable and cost-effective technology, linking Fibre Channel-based SANs over long distances is the next logical step in SAN technology. Several vendors are taking different approaches: Fibre Channel-to-ATM routers (Crossroads, Computer Network Technology), building Gigabit Ethernet connectivity into a switch (Brocade/McDATA promise this in the future), and now SANcastle's Fibre Channel-to-Ethernet switch. Other vendors are bypassing Fibre Channel altogether and have announced iSCSI routers to communicate with storage over extended distances (Nishan, Cisco).

The Evaluator Group believes these new technologies will shake out over the next few years, but that the dominant solutions will be those that 1) Use a standards-based approach to implementation 2) Capitalize on the existing Fibre Channel SAN infrastructure including storage management, 3) Minimize the latency and overhead associated with protocol translation.

SANcastle's Infinilink GFS-8 Global Fabric Switch is a unique, well thought-out solution to a growing need. Its ability to support fabric log-in so that it can be managed from a SAN, and features Class 2/3 service, guaranteed in-order delivery of frames, and zoning capabilities across the SAN/LAN boundary (to minimize security breaches) are all strong selling points. The switch is FC-SW-2 compliant, so that it interoperates with any other compliant switch. The fact that the GFS-8 performs IP translation in hardware minimizes latencies associated with protocol translation and offloads servers at either end. The Infinilink GFS-8 uses 1 Gbit/sec technology; we expect the company will offer a 2 Gbit product in the near future.

Users should be aware that the GFS-8 is a non-redundant solution. For full redundancy and failover capability, four GFS-8 switches would need to be installed, two at each end of the LAN. At $32,000 apiece, the cost of long distance connections can range from $64,000 for a non-redundant configuration to up to $150,000 for a fully redundant configuration. Granularity of service should also be considered. If a Fibre Channel or Gigabit Ethernet port fails, the entire switch must be brought off-line to service it.

To view another analysis and commentary in this month's review series from the Evaluator Group, go to

The Evaluator Series and Evaluator Series On-Line (ES/OL) are trademarks of Evaluator Group, Inc.

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