Optical Switches Speed Remote Backups

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2003-03-12

Optical Switches Speed Remote Backups

Optical switches for connecting storage networks over long distances are coming to mainstream enterprises this spring, from stalwarts Cisco Systems Inc., Lucent Technologies Inc. and Nortel Networks Ltd.

The switches are useful for backing up data to remote locations and for disaster recovery, with a future use being the design of distributed SANs, experts say. The technology is expensive compared to traditional IP networking, but its fast, reliable, secure and shipping today, they note.

Cisco on Wednesday, at the CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany, upgraded its ONS (Optical Networking System) 15530 with a new eight-port card designed for 2.5G-bps increments of data, versus 10G bps in prior versions, officials said. Its ports now use Ficon for mainframes instead of the older Escon, plus Gigabit Ethernet, both in addition to the current Fibre Channel. New protection modules route data around damage and attach to larger 15540 switches as well, they said.

Cisco is also helping users build optical SAN extensions with 1.5M-bps increment synchronous optical network (SONET) switches, using the international synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) design, officials said. That technology scales in 1.5M-bps units and so is well-suited for mainstream users. The new ONS 15302 and ONS 15305 models aggregate traffic to buildings and connect to the larger ONS 454, upgraded to 40 ports, versus five before. Data is monitored with new Transport Manager 4.0 software, upgraded from Version 3.2, with new configuration options, officials said.

Ciscos 15530 will ship next month, and the 15302/5 switches will ship next quarter, officials said. The remaining upgrades are available now. Officials did not comment on pricing.

The idea behind the enhancements is to open up traditionally closed SANs and create a multilayer SAN to make better use of the network assets, Mark de Simone, Cisco vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said upon unveiling the upgrades. By converging the enterprise IP and SAN environments, an enterprise builds a more efficient network of networks, he said.

"All things in the network, whether in the enterprise or the service provider network, are linked together," de Simone said.

Storage area networking increasingly is being driven by the need for disaster recovery plans, security concerns, business continuity concerns and the need for remote storage, de Simone said. The new generation of storage networking will give enterprises universal access to their data and storage. It will also provide for storage consolidation, centralized management and centralized disaster recovery.

Ciscos MDS 9000 Multilayer Intelligent Platform switches integrate the management of advanced storage services and advanced network services, Bernard Zeutzius, Cisco SAN product manager, said at CeBIT. The family of switches is multiprotocol, providing for optimal business continuance, he said. A high availability data center infrastructure provides for non-stop e-business applications, and synchronous disk mirroring and data center mirroring provide for rapid recovery of mission-critical information.

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Dense wave division multiplexing, or DWDM, which allows for increased capacity and throughput, supports the kind of high-bandwidth, low-latency needs of business-continuity applications as well as the high service density that storage requires, the company said. With network services growing, an enterprise can scale the network without interruptions.

"Were seeing applications skyrocketing across these networks today," said Geraint Anderson, vice president of EMEA at Cisco.

With DWDM, an enterprise not only can consolidate storage networks but also can use its fiber capacity more efficiently. "This product is setting the standard for enterprise DWDM," Anderson said.

Lucents new OptiStar Edge Switch, meanwhile, will scale down to optical carrier level 3, which has a capacity of 155M bps, later this month starting at about $35,000. Current versions are for more elite enterprises and service providers, transmitting at OC-12 (622M-bps) and OC-48 (2.5G-bps) speeds, said Jeff Shafer, product manager, in Murray Hill, N.J.

Using technology licensed from Bothell, Wash.s Vixel Corp., the updated switch has hardware flow control and holds both dual-channel Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) cards and Gigabit Ethernet cards, Shafer said. It connects to SANs using 1G-bps Fibre Channel, while 2G-bps versions are on the road map, he said. The switch will get support for SNMP 2.0 later this month, he said. OptiStar is certified for Broomfield, Colo., McData Corp.s SAN switches, but "well commit to working with customers regardless of what Fibre Channel switches they have," Shafer said, referring to McData competitors like San Jose, Calif.s Brocade Communications Systems Inc.

Nortel offers mainstream enterprises the Optera Metro 5100 and 5200 series. "We believe this is a big market opportunity. We are working at enabling lower-cost solutions. SONET and SDH is what were looking at for the future," Product Manager J.C. Fahmy said, in Brampton, Ontario. Nortel will announce details soon, he said, declining to elaborate.

SONET multiplexers are as cheap as $11,000, said analyst Sterling Perrin, of International Data Corp. Regardless of which technology or supplier users pick, "its not like theres major pitfalls. Its just fairly complex technology. Many enterprises are still unfamiliar with the technology, even at the large enterprises," Perrin said. But, "Obviously the SANs have limitations for how far you can extend that traffic. You need another wide-area technology to do that."

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