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10Gb Ethernet Storage Gets Its Own Alliance

Eight storage vendors have formed a new alliance aimed at fostering greater enterprise adoption of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) and greater interoperability among switch, adapter and storage system products.

Leading the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Storage Alliance is Nimbus Data Systems, which makes multiprotocol IP storage products. The remaining seven vendors include Arastra, Force10 Networks, Fujitsu, Fulcrum Microsystems, Mellanox Technologies (NASDAQ: MLNX), Neterion and NetXen.

"We're rallying to bring all the pieces of the 10GbE storage puzzle together," Thomas Isakovich, Nimbus founder and CEO, told InternetNews.com.

Providing better interoperability is clearly a winning strategy for both customers and vendors. So is boosting customer awareness of a technology that is coming into its own. Today's $2 billion market is expected to more than double to $4.4 billion in just two years, according to research firm Dell 'Oro Group.

"10 Gibabit Ethernet technologies have been around for awhile, and it appears that enterprise customers may finally be coming around," Charles King, principal analyst, Pund-IT, told InternetNews.com, adding that storage and server consolidation are driving the need for more robust networking tools.

"10GbE offers businesses significantly enhanced performance at a fraction of the cost of traditional Fibre Channel solutions," King explained. "This is nothing new, but with the market for 10GbE heating up, the Alliance could help its members better compete against networking behemoths like Cisco Systems," he said.

Alliance members believe the cost benefits and higher performance will start swaying today's prevalent use of Fibre Channel toward 10GbE. The group claims the infrastructure cost of 10GbE is 30 to 75 percent less than that of 4Gb/sec Fibre Channel.

But cost is just one reason 10GbE is gaining ground. The pipe can reduce storage infrastructure costs and let enterprises combine block and file-level services into one network while boosting bandwidth and supporting current protocols such as iSCSI and emerging protocols like Fibre Channel over Ethernet.

Force10 Networks, which has forged close channel relationships with Nimbus, joined the Alliance effort to foster and support the growing iSCSI movement. The vendor is also championing the evolution of a 100GbE standard expected by 2010.

The Alliance roster, while still growing, is clearly absent some big-name storage players, including Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP). EMC (NYSE: EMC) and Brocade (NASDAQ: BRCD) are also out of the mix.

Alliance leaders note it's just the start of the grassroots effort and expect more vendors to join as it takes shape.

"This [the Alliance] is about giving people choices; it's about the story of iSCSI and how it can help enterprises," Stephen Garrison, Force10 vice president of marketing, told InternetNews.com.

Garrison said the Alliance provides customers proof that Force10 Networks switches and Nimbus storage systems are interoperable and provide the infrastructure needed to consolidate and gain greater efficiency of datacenters.

"Interoperability of the ecosystem is what customers want, and that's the focus of this Alliance," he said. "Partners in this have proven they have tested plug-and-play solutions, which is what customers want."