Networking, storage, and system vendors this month will converge on enterprise data centres to make storage simpler and more scalable.
Storage area networks (SANs) will take a big step into the mainstream next week when 3Com announces a set of products for linking servers to enterprise storage devices. Also, Hewlett-Packard and Seagate Technology will in two weeks announce a partnership to extend Fibre Channel, the technology underlying SANs, to four times its current speed.
SANs are designed to let users freely connect any storage device to any server via a shared infrastructure. Traditional server-to-storage links have not easily allowed this.
HP and Seagate are developing disk drives, hubs, switches, disk arrays, and controllers that will offer 2Gbps Fibre Channel throughput, according to a source close to the project. Later products will support 4Gbps throughput, the source said.
Automatic speed adjustment
The products will provide "auto-negotiation", or automatic speed adjustment, between the current 1Gbps Fibre Channel and the higher speeds.
3Com is the first major networking vendor to enter the burgeoning SAN market. The vendor will announce plans for Fibre Channel hubs, switches, adapters, and management software to ship in phases starting in the first half of 1999.
In the first phase, 3Com will ship hardware that has been tested for interoperability with partner storage vendors, including Legato, Clariion, and MTI.
The second phase, coming later in 1999 or in 2000, will integrate the SAN gear with 3Com's TranscendWare network management system. In later steps, 3Com will integrate its SANs with LAN and WAN infrastructures and bring them into its policy-based network system.
Analysts said SANs will help to cure headaches caused by cheaper storage and abundant information.
"Now, everyone has megabytes coming out their ears, and managing and connecting the storage has become a challenge," said Robert Gray, an IDC analyst.