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Cisco Crafts Router with IP, Fibre Channel

In the midst of a busy product rollout barrage, Cisco Systems, Inc. Tuesday introduced its latest storage router -- the Cisco SN 5428 -- which fuses features of rival storage techniques IP and Fibre Channel switching technologies.

The San Jose networking giant created the product, priced at $11,995, to help small- and medium-sized businesses migrate from direct attached storage (DAS) to storage area network (SAN) environments.

Those who loom large or even dabble in the storage industry have been hawking IP-based storage via iSCSI, or Internet Small Computer System Interface. iSCSI enables block storage data to be transmitted via TCP/IP and Ethernet through the Internet. FC/IP may only be used in conjunction with Fiber Channel technology while iSCSI can run over existing Ethernet networks, making it more cost-effective.

However, progress in setting it up has been relatively slow, so businesses have stuck with Fibre Channel even though it is supposed to cost more than iSCSI storage. Cisco feels that by blending the two, it is creating a greater value proposition for companies who wish to set up a storage area network (SAN).

Robert Gray, research director at IDC, approved Cisco's philosophy on the matter.

"By combining IP/GbE interfaces for midrange servers connectivity and Fibre Channel ports for storage and high-end server connection, the Cisco SN 5428 uniquely addresses the needs of the workgroup SAN market and will accelerate SAN adoption in this space," Gray said.

The SN 5428 offers two Gigabit Ethernet ports, for connectivity to standard TCP/IP networks, and eight 1 or 2-gigabit Fibre Channel fabric switch ports with integrated parts from QLogic Corp. . The SN 5428 supports IP-based measures such as RADIUS and TACACS+ authentication, access control lists, VLANs and VLAN Trunking Protocol, and high-availability clusters. It also supports traditional SAN security features such as LUN Mapping, LUN Masking, and Fibre Channel zoning.

Cisco has tested the SN 5428. Wireless Retail has been using the Cisco SN 5428 at its headquarters in Scottsdale, AZ. to migrate data from nearly 20 midrange servers, all with direct attached storage running applications such as e-mail, database systems and financial software to a single storage subsystem.

Research firm Gartner Dataquest predicts Fibre Channel, IP storage components and InfiniBand will contribute to a $10.8 billion storage network infrastructure market in 2005, growing at 53 percent CAGR from $1.3 billion in 2000.