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Issue of January 2006 
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SAN side story

When talking about the new SAN technologies, it is time to consider the two siblings on the block—IP SAN and FC SAN. Here is a look at what 2006 holds on these fronts. by Sneha Khanna

Fibre Channel SAN has been the forerunner in enterprise storage for block-level storage access requirements. “FC SAN is being widely used in large and medium enterprises,” reveals Vivek Joshi, VP, IT, HDFC Bank.

Ajaz Munsiff,
Director, Storage Virtualisation,
EMC Asia Pacific

Ajaz Munsiff, Director, Storage Virtualisation, EMC Asia Pacific agrees: “98 percent of SANs today are FC SANs.”

Fibre Channel technology has progressed rapidly with the demand for higher performance levels. There are three kinds of FC SANs available in the market: 1 Gbps, 2 Gbps and the latest. 4 Gbps. Let us now examine the new 4 Gbps entrant, which will see wide adoption in 2006.

FC Gets Faster

Vaidyanathan Iyer
Country Manager
Intransa India

“FC SAN has entered the 4 Gbps arena thereby doubling the speed of the current 2 Gbps standard,” says Vaidyanathan Iyer, Country Manager, Intransa India. “The benefits of the new standard include immediate savings on infrastructure implementation due to the need to purchase fewer ports, investment protection through backward compatibility, support for longer distances, and reduced power consumption,” he adds.

4 Gbps FC SAN is a good option for companies looking for a new SAN for several reasons.

First, there is a marginal price difference between the existing 2 Gbps and 4 Gbps FC SAN. Mario Blandini, Manager,Product Marketing, Brocade Communications avers, “4 Gbps FC SAN is priced at no more than 10 percent premium, if not the same or lower than 2 Gbps.” However, Munsiff differs: “The overall price difference is going to be 30 to 40 percent.”

FC SAN is popular in data centres where there is a need for high-speed data replication and 4 Gbps adoption will take off here.
The problem with a full adoption of the technology is that all the components (front and back end) have to be 4 Gbps-compliant

Notwithstanding varied views, the biggest factor in favour of 4 Gbps FC SANs is speed. It is a twofold increase in speed compared to 2 Gbps.

The benefits of the 4 Gbps standard include immediate savings on infrastructure implementation due to the need to purchase fewer ports, investment protection through backward compatibility, support for longer distances, and reduced power consumption

Then there is compatibility. The 4 Gbps FC SAN is able to talk to the earlier 2 Gbps FC SAN version. This means that existing 2 Gbps users can use both technologies together.

The 2006 Perspective

The future for 4 Gbps FC SAN is bright according to market players. Iyer predicts, “Over the next six to 18 months, the entire industry will gradually make the shift to a 4 Gbps FC storage infrastructure.” FC SAN is popular in data centres where there is a need for high-speed data replication and 4 Gbps adoption will take off here.

4 Gbps FC SAN has been in the market for over a year now. However, there are problems with a full adoption of the technology as all the components (front and back end) have to be 4 Gbps-compliant.

Munsiff explains, “There are some 4 Gbps arrays in the market but it is only for the front end. The hardware in the storage box still needs to be 4 Gbps. Slowly vendors will come out with 4 Gbps drives.”

Winner In The Making

Mario Blandini,
Manager, Product Marketing,
Brocade Communications

IP SAN (Internet Protocol Storage Area Network) uses TCP/IP for its operation. This enables a machine to connect to a remote dedicated server using the iSCSI protocol and perform block I/O on it using local hard disks. iSCSI was officially ratified on February 11, 2003 by Internet Engineering Task Force.

IP SAN has been the buzzword in the market for quite some time now and industry is adopting it.

Let us look at the reasons why IP SAN is expected to be popular.

As IP SAN runs on the existing LAN and hardware, setting it up is cheap. Munsiff explains, “The Indian market appreciates IP SANs because of the lower cost. For IP most companies already have a LAN, while to deploy a FC SAN you need to deploy a new network using fibre channel in addition to LAN.”

IP SAN works on Ethernet, which is well understood, so there is no need for extra technical staff. “Obviously many tools, management packages and features are widely available on IP. As IP is the widest-used protocol in any IT infrastructure, IP SAN will gain early acceptance,” says Joshi.

Blandini concurs, “IP SAN eliminates the cost of host bus adapter and management.”

A typical IP SAN can be connected to another network even across long distances since it uses IP technology. IP SANs are becoming popular with mid-sized companies and at disaster recovery sites. IP SAN is most likely to dominate the market for companies requiring low-end storage and cheaper solutions.

Moreover, a typical IP SAN can be connected to another network even across long distances since it uses IP technology.

IP SANs are becoming popular with mid-sized companies and at disaster recovery sites. IP SAN is most likely to dominate the market for companies requiring low storage and/or cheaper solutions.

Says Sanjay Kharade, Principal Consultant, Cisco Systems, India and SAARC, “IP SAN is typically ‘cold’ storage where the older and less critical data is normally migrated on IP SAN.” He adds, “IP SAN will only be used where less critical applications are required. This could be in a start-up or for complementary enterprise storage in a large bank or telecom company.”

Heading For The Future

According to Joshi, BFSI and services sector will need SANs the most. “IP SANs will be used where the security and convenience of IP is of prime importance. When speed is the only criterion, 4 Gbps FC SANs will be used. IP overheads can degrade the performance of SAN to some extent,” Joshi concedes.

IP SAN appears to be more popular with the medium segment whereas FC SAN seems to be a favourite with large enterprises. These two technologies also seem to complement each other: FC SAN at the front end for critical applications and IP SAN for Disaster Recovery. Overall, both these technologies should flourish in 2006.

khannasneha@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
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