4G Storage Technology Comes of Age

With several vendors introducing 4G-based technology in the past few weeks alone, this may be the year the technology finally takes off.

With several vendors introducing 4G-based technology in the past few weeks alone, this may be the year the technology finally takes off.

Just this week, ARIO Data Networks Inc., of San Jose, Calif., announced the SANARIO FC, a 4G-bps external RAID controller that company executives say is the first of a planned family of Fibre Channel-based RAID controllers. In essence, it replaces 2GF-based Fibre Channel RAID controllers with 4G technology, said Eric Herzog, ARIOs vice president of marketing and business development.

"You dont give up anything with compatibility and existing infrastructure, and you can get this future functionality for 4G at essentially the same price, if not cheaper, than what you used to pay for 2G," he said. "It works with new purchases as you expand your data center, and it works with what youve already got in place, so there is no reason not to buy 4G."

The SANARIO FC, intended for use by OEMs to incorporate into external storage subsystems, offers fibre to the host as well as the disk, providing the high availability, high performance and reliability features needed in a RAID environment. The controller provides dual active/active operations for high performance. High availability features include transparent failover/failback, mirrored cache, cache coherency, dual controller heartbeat, automatic and transparent rebuild of failed disk drives in the background, support for local and global sparing of disk drives, and background reassignment of bad data blocks on disk drives attached to an array.

The product, due for release midyear, also comes with ARIOs RAID Manager software, a browser-based enterprise RAID management software application that allows the RAID system to be configured, managed and monitored.

ARIOs announcement comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this month by Silicon Graphics Inc., of Mountain View, Calif. SGI announced the SGI InfiniteStorage TP9700, the first 4G-based storage system on the market.

Aimed at the high-performance market, the SGI InfiniteStorage TP9700 is built on the XBB high-density storage architecture from Engenio Information Technologies Inc., of Milpitas, Calif. It offers customers flexibility in how they choose to use the 1,600M-bps of sustained bandwidth the system delivers, according to company information. The product will be available next month.

It makes sense that SGI is the first out of the gate with 4G-based technology in a customer-facing product, said Greg Schulz, senior analyst at Evaluator Group, of Greenwood Village, Colo.

"They are associated with high throughput, storage-intensive applications that use lots of I/O, so they were a natural to be first," he said. However, Schulz expects competing vendors to introduce products based on similar technology by years end.

And finally, a bit down the foodchain but no less important to the growth of 4G is the introduction of Sierra Logic Inc.s BR-2401 Storage Bridge, the first of a new family of integrated Fibre Channel to Serial ATA silicon storage bridges. The BR-2401 allows ATA hard disk drives to be inserted into any Fibre Channel drive slot and mixed with Fibre Channel disk drives within a storage system, according to the chip vendor, which is based in Roseville, Calif.

With this many 4G related announcements so early in the year, experts say this may be the year 4G lives up to its billing.

"Up until now all youve had is a 4G switch. Now at least you can attach a 4G storage system to that switch and either use it for lots of performance or to aggregate lots of servers and eliminate a choke point at the storage system," Schulz said.

Although the industry wont completely switch over to 4G by the end of the year, there will be a lot of progress, Schulz said. "Those who need 4G can finally start to adopt it," he said.


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