Ethernet tie boosts SAN market

Another industry alliance – the Open Storage Networking Initiative – has been formed to promote storage area networks, with the backing of several companies, including Network Appliance and Cisco

The latest storage push builds on the price benefits of Ethernet Yet another industry alliance has been formed to promote storage area networks (SANs).

The Open Storage Networking Initiative has the backing of several companies, including network-attached storage specialist Network Appliance and Cisco.

The alliance takes advantage of the differences in prices between Ethernet networks cand fibre-based ones.

Network-attached storage, which is a cheaper version of SAN, places stored data on the local area network (LAN).

By contrast, San puts the stored data on a separate parallel network.

While this approach is more expensive, it is much faster to use when larger amounts of data are being moved from different points.

The Open Storage Networking Initiative also has the support of Amdahl, Foundry Networks, Legato Systems, Veritas, and Quantum/ATL.

The move towards Ethernet as a storage solution has been made because the companies believe it will give impetus to increased Ethernet speeds.

While the organisations are immediately moving towards providing storage systems that can take advantage of gigabit Ethernet speeds, their ultimate aim is to move towards faster networking systems.

Users will eventually be able to take advantage of 10Gbyte solutions, following the launch of the 10Gbyte Alliance backed by Cisco and 3Com.

OSNI Ethernet-based solution

The industry-standard San model is built using fibre channel products. Its backers include Compaq, IBM, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard, but there are interoperability problems when mixing storage products from different suppliers.

Both Compaq and IBM recently announced moves to make their storage products work with those from other suppliers. And, at its users' conference in Barcelona last week, StorageTek announced a similar sort of strategy. But, by offering a one-stop shop for its Ethernet solution proferring products built around established technology, OSNI hopes more users will take the storage networking plunge.

While admitting that initial offerings could be slower than those built around fibre channels, OSNI says the cost per port for Ethernet-based systems compared to fibre-based systems is an obvious advantage in the market.

At the OSNI launch at Networld+Interop earlier this month, the partners said the price differential was 2:1 in Ethernet's favour, with an Ethernet system solution costing about $300 (£187) and a fibre-based system costing at least $600.

OSNI is the fifth storage area networking initiative to appear since the technology solution for busy corporate networks first appeared two years ago. It is up against the Fibre Channel Industry Association, the Storage Network Industry Association, the Celestra Consortium which is also backed by Legato, and the Jiro initiative from Sun Microsystems.

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