Mainstream storage area networks on IP are still years away, but Alacritech Inc. and Sanrad Inc. took a step forward in interoperability last week.
Alacritechs TCP/IP offload engine accelerator cards for storage, known as TOEs, now are certified to connect with Sanrads multiprotocol virtualization switch, according to officials with both companies.
Availability of TOEs and IP storage switches means users can save time by managing Fibre Channel SANs more like traditional networks, even though none of the major storage companies—including EMC Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Network Appliance Inc.—ship IP systems yet.
"I believe iSCSI isnt going to really take off until after the [storage] guys are supplying native targets," said Larry Boucher, chairman, president and CEO of Alacritech.
Until then, with alliances between TOE and switch makers, "you can attach Fibre Channel components, and itll supply the gateway to iSCSI," Boucher said.
Alacritech, of San Jose, Calif., and Sanrad, of San Francisco and Tel Aviv, Israel, will continue to sell their products separately, Boucher said.
Alacritechs cards, which work by taking over the network traffic processing of any server they reside in, start at about $800, but beginning early next year, they will be sold as less expensive standard network interface cards, with the software sold as an add-on, Boucher said.
Four of Sanrads 40 users are testing the combination of products, although none have been made public, Sanrad spokesman Zophar Sante said.
Sanrad, whose switches cost $14,000 to $35,000, is also in partnership talks with Adaptec Inc., Emulex Corp., Intel Corp. and QLogic Corp., Sante said.
Sanrads product, called the iSCSI V Switch, has three iSCSI ports, using Gigabit Ethernet, and four storage-facing ports, of Fibre Channel or SCSI. Those can be divided into two Fibre Channel and two SCSI; by years end, two Sanrad switches will be able to be linked together as one, Sante said. Next year, four or eight switches will be linkable, he said.
Also last week, Alacritech announced interoperability with San Diego-based StoneFly Networks Inc.s iSCSI router/provisioning appliance, called Storage Concentrator.
As with Sanrads product, StoneFlys has virtualization functions, but it also has in-band provisioning functions. The high-end i500FS model, starting at $12,995, supports SCSI and Fibre Channel storage and local RAID and has dual power supplies.
"The partnership is good for iSCSI SANs," said Dan Tanner, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc., in Boston.
Such deals will make SAN prices drop while interoperability and manageability increase, Tanner said.