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Sonet SANs Surging, Suppliers Say

Service providers need better ways to move Fibre Channel traffic over Sonet/SDH networks, according to equipment suppliers. By the end of this year, a number of them hope to finalize a standard to help -- even if it means taking some carriers by surprise.

Enter Fibre Channel Backbone - Generation 3 (FC-BB-3), a proposal for mapping Fibre Channel traffic to Sonet/SDH traffic using Generic Framing Procedure (GFP). The emerging spec is the work of a group that's part of the T11 committee of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS).

Do carriers want this help? Participants, including representatives from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Computer Network Technology Corp. (CNT) (Nasdaq: CMNT), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), insist their service-provider customers are clamoring to offer better Sonet-based SAN services.

Up to now, it's been possible to send Fibre Channel traffic over Sonet/SDH networks, but carriers have been limited in what they can do with it. With FC-BB-3, for instance, carriers will be able to offer customers a fraction of a Sonet pipe for Fibre Channel connectivity, instead of having to take up a whole connection. Work is also focused on providing point-to-multipoint links, instead of just the point-to-point connections possible now, and on providing carriers with an interface for management and configuration.

Note: FC-BB-3 isn't synonymous with GFP, though it's based on it. Vendors of telecom gear are in varying stages of offering GFP for storage networking (more on that in another story).

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