AT&T Lets Businesses Tap into Storage Over SONET Rings

AT&T looks to save businesses the hassle and cost of adding more fiber and storage gear to their networks.

AT&T doesnt usually come to mind with regard to storage innovation, but the company said it has come up with a way to let businesses tap into a storage-area network using optical technology.

The telecommunications service provider has created storage software interfaces that let businesses efficiently tap into SONET (Synchronous Optical Network) rings, a type of architecture and corresponding devices that some large businesses and organizations use to allow two or more transmission paths between network nodes to deliver data packets.

SONET rings are specially timed to shuttle a lot of data very efficiently, providing greater bandwidth than even Ethernet in some cases.

AT&Ts new storage-over-SONET rings, announced Aug. 14, allow bandwidth-hungry organizations—think hospitals, government agencies and financial service providers—access to storage without the need for more SAN (storage area network) gear or data translation equipment, said spokesperson Michael Lordi.

For example, storage-over-SONET rings will benefit companies looking to operate separate storage networks for business continuity or disaster recovery, or even for meeting regulations that require strict observance of consumer privacy.

AT&T, headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, envisions the storage-over-SONET rings as a competitive differentiator from other phone carriers as it seeks to corral business from enterprises looking to satisfy their cravings for more bandwidth.


To read more about competition in the communications market, click here.

The value proposition of the storage interfaces is significant, according to Lordi.

"The problem has been, if you have to build a storage-area network, you only had a couple of choices on how to bring the traffic into the network and bring it out," Lordi said. "You could either rip out what you had and put in new fiber, or go and invest in translation equipment to translate traffic into the SONET language protocol, move it into your storage network and then, when you had to retrieve it, you had to have a separate piece of equipment to translate it back into the native application."

The storage-over-SONET interfaces "tag" the data and tell the SONET ring to pass it along to a storage network without worrying about the translation. So, the interfaces help save companies from the cost of building a separate SAN to handle multiple storage protocols, or installing equipment that would translate the data traffic language to the SONET protocol.

AT&T is making the interfaces available to customers of its SMARTRing and LightGate optical transport services.

The storage perk comes as AT&T is still smarting from public backlash for censoring portions of rock band Pearl Jams live concert cybercast in which singer Eddie Vedder criticized President Bush. AT&T blamed the snafu on a Webcast vendor.


Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and small business storage hardware and software.