Cisco makes storage link

Cisco Systems Inc. will begin shipping a new router this month that bridges the disparate world of general-purpose Ethernet networks with specialized storage networks.

The Cisco SN 5420 is among the first products to use a new industry specification called iSCSI, which enables block-level storage data to move across the ordinary IP-based Ethernet networks prevalent in most federal agencies.

On one side, the SN 5420 has a Gigabit Ethernet port to connect to the general purpose IP network, and on the other, a port that connects with SCSI- or Fibre Channel-based storage devices. Once connected this way, a server fitted with the iSCSI driver software and located anywhere on the organization's IP network can access the storage resources connected via the SN 5420.

"This makes a remote storage device look exactly like it's local storage," said Mike Rau, director of engineering for Cisco's federal operations. "It doesn't look like a network connection but as just another drive connected to the computer.""

Another likely use for the new router will be to utilize an agency's standard IP network to shuttle storage data from one location to another to create off-site copies for disaster-recovery purposes. Industry analyst John Webster of Illuminata Inc. said he doesn't expect iSCSI to replace other pure storage protocols. "It'll depend on the user's environment, but it could be that Fibre Channel is best in storage production environments, whereas if they want to go long haul, then IP will be the way to do it," he said.

The SN 5420 will ship by the end of this month and costs $27,000.

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