Cisco leads out storage networking drive

Cisco Systems is taking its experience in networking and applying it to the storage industry. It recently unveiled its Cisco Storage Networking initiative, designed to tie an enterprise's storage system into its network.

Cisco Systems is taking its experience in networking and applying it to the storage industry

At the Storage Networking World show in Palm Desert, Calif., on Monday, the company unveiled its Cisco Storage Networking initiative, a collection of partners, technologies and products designed to tie an enterprise's storage system into its network.

Cisco, based in San Jose, also announced the first product of the initiative--the SN 5420 Storage Router. Based on the iSCSI open protocol, the networking platform features ports for Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel systems.

The router will be available later this month for $27,000.

"The strategy is to take Cisco's experience in IP and use it to benefit the storage industry," said Mark Cree, general manager of Cisco's Storage Router Business Unit.

Cisco is basing the initiative on its AVVID (Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data) program. It will enable businesses to create a data storage strategy using a converged IP, Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel and optical network infrastructure for the deployment of both NAS (network attached storage) and SANs (storage area networks). Cisco is also leveraging relationships with various vendors in developing strategies managing storage, Cree said. In the area of IP access to storage, the company is working with IBM and Emulex, while working with Brocade Communications Systems in developing storage over WANs.

Storage over metropolitan area optical networking also will be key in providing high-capacity, low-latency transport for major applications such as storage consolidation and outsourcing, Cree said. Cisco already offers two metro DWDM platforms, as well as an IP metro optical product.

Cisco also is working with stalwarts in the storage industry itself, including EMC and Network Appliance.

Cree said the rapid development of the iSCSI protocol is driving much of the growth in the storage networking industry, an area that is expected to exceed $5 billion by 2003.

Even though it has yet to be adopted by the Internet Engineering Task Force, or IETF, (something targeted for early next year), iSCSI has become the "de facto" standard, with more than 250 companies creating products that incorporate it, Cree said.

But despite iSCSI's growing popularity, other technologies--particularly Fiber Channel--will continue to play critical roles in storage networking, driving home the need for open-source solutions, he said.

To that end, Cisco is working with Brocade to drive IETF ratification of the proposed FCIP (Fibre Channel over IP) standard and developing products based on FCIP.

Cisco is concentrating its current storage networking efforts on the North American and European markets, with plans to expand globally in the next quarter.