Cisco Systems has announced its entry into the storage market with the introduction of a router that allows access from an IP network to storage devices.
The SN 5420 Storage Router, which is based on a developing IETF standard called, iSCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface over IP), is positioned by Cisco as a networking platform that enables applications such as storage consolidation, remote data backup, and archiving to tape. To achieve enhanced host TCP I/O performance, Cisco is also working with companies such as Alacritech, Emulex, and Intel to develop TCP-accelerated and iSCSI-compatible NICs (network interface cards). The Cisco SN 5420 Storage Router is expected to be available later this month and is listed at $27,000.
The product is the first fruit of Cisco's Storage Networking initiative which has the ambitious aim of providing a unified IP infrastructure for storage networking, the Internet, and optical networking technologies.
Storage systems were once tied to individual servers but a storage-specific networking protocol called Fibre Channel has allowed firms to provide a central storage resource, through what has become known as storage area networking. Providing access to these devices through more widely deployed and cheaper IP networking technologies would lower costs, but standards are still in development and it's doubtful whether the performance of IP-based storage networking kit can ever rival that of Fibre Channel, which is optimised for block data transfer.
In part because of a slowdown in the traditional networking market, firms like Cisco and Lucent are trying to get into the booming storage market and tap into the massive investment of firms looking for technologies to manage the data activities like ecommerce, email and Customer Relationship Management are generating.
To further its aims, Cisco has announced it's working with key firms in the storage market such as Brocade, EMC, and Network Appliance to develop fresh storage standards and to take part in systems development and testing.
These firms are likely to become Cisco's competitors over time and ,given the fractious nature of partnerships in the highly-competitive storage market, it's easy to forsee these alliances unravelling. Where this would leave development of technologies like Fibre Channel over IP is anybody's guess, but we reckon providing a unified infrastructure for storage is likely to prove at least as difficult as integrating voice and data networks, a technology much vaunted by firms like Cisco over the last few years but which has not yet been widely adopted. ®