Switches to Link SANs Over Long Distances

Technologies from Cisco, Lucent, Nortel can be used for disaster recovery.

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 and will eventually be used to design distributed SANs (storage area networks), experts say. The technology is expensive compared with traditional IP networking, but its fast, reliable, secure and shipping today, they say.

Cisco last week at the 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 Fibre Connect for mainframes, instead of the older Enterprise System Connection, plus Gigabit Ethernet, in addition to the current Fibre Channel. New protection modules route data around network failures and attach to larger ONS 15540 switches as well, they said.

Cisco is also helping users build optical SAN extensions with 1.5M-bps-increment SONET (Synchronous Optical Network) switches, using the international SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) 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 ONS 15530 will ship next month, and the 15302/5 switches will ship next quarter, officials said. The remaining upgrades are available now. Officials would not comment on pricing.

Optical switches connect SANs

Wave Division Multiplexing up to 200 kilometers
  • For elite customers and through service providers
  • Expensive and complex but very high capacitySONET/SDH for easier installation beyond 200 km
  • Do-it-yourself equipment and networking
  • Less expensive, with smaller- capacity increments
Lucents new OptiStar Edge Switch, meanwhile, will scale down to OC-3, which has a capacity of 155M bps, later this month, with prices 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), said Jeff Shafer, product manager, in Murray Hill, N.J.

Using technology licensed from Vixel Corp., in Bothell, Wash., the updated switch has hardware flow control and holds dual-channel Fibre Channel-over-IP 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.

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 [are] what were looking at for the future," said Product Manager J.C. Fahmy, in Brampton, Ontario. Nortel will announce details soon, Fahmy said, declining to elaborate.

SONET multiplexers are priced as low as $11,000, said analyst Sterling Perrin, of International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass. 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," he said.

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