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Some experts see the Carlson storage network as marking the beginning of true merging of fibre channel SANs and emerging IP SANs. The technology also marries switching and routing capabilities from Cisco Systems and Nishan Systems, which sell competing products in the IP storage marketplace.
Eric Sheppard, a storage analyst at IDC, said Carlson's SAN is less a challenge to traditional fibre channel networks than the beginning of enterprise-class uses.
"This is far more of an integration of IP into the SAN, and that's significant," Sheppard said. "It didn't occur to me that that was the sweet spot for IP - the high end. This is the data centre, and that's striking."
By using IP instead of fibre channel as the core network in its data centre, Carlson has already saved money by exploiting existing infrastructure and networking expertise, and it expects to see those savings grow as the SAN fans out across the globe.
The 12 IP switches, two routers and 10Tbyte of array storage cost $2m (£1.3m). Carlson paid $40,000 (£26,138) each for Nishan's switches, $80,000 (£52,227) each for Cisco's routers and $1.2m (£0.78m) for a Hewlett-Packard XP512 storage array.
With locations in more than 140 countries, Carlson needed a way to share enterprise data with satellite offices, customers and suppliers as well as perform backup and recovery for remote offices. An IP storage area network offered better data packet control and ease of use, executives said.