Cisco Touts Storage-Over-IP Project

Unveils real-life example of the technology being used in high performance project UPDATED 7/3 8AM

July 3, 2003

4 Min Read
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One of the first European examples of IP being used for a large-scale storage network with stringent performance requirements has been announced by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).

The project, rolled out by an operator of a financial futures exchange called Euronext LIFFE, appears to demonstrate that storage-over-IP technologies arent limited to low bandwidth, non-mission-critical applications, as some vendors claim.

The issue blew up at the WDM and Metro Optical Networking conference in Cannes, France, today.

In a session on storage over optical networks, Viplob Syngal, director of optical networks in EMEA for Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), ruled out storage over IP for projects with stringent latency and jitter requirements. He also said the economics of storage over IP didn’t stack up for high bandwidths.

As it happened, a contrary point of view was offered by Stephen Elkes, head of infrastructure engineering at Euronext LIFFE. Cisco brought Elkes to the conference to brief journalists on his organization’s storage-over-IP project, which runs over high-bandwidth, 2.5-Gbit/s connections and has to conform with very tight latency tolerances to ensure that all of Euronext LIFFE’s customers get the same market information at the same time. This is so critical that delays are measured in milliseconds and are constantly monitored and adjusted to ensure fair play.Euronext LIFFE’s core network comprises an IP network running over an SDH ring linking Amsterdam, London, and Paris, built from Cisco's ONS 15454 SDH multiservice provisioning platforms, 7600 series routers, and MDS 9509 Multilayer Director switches.

In each city, there are two points of presence to which customers all over the world are connected. Data centers in London and Paris are located a few miles away from the POPs and are connected via multiple Gigabit Ethernet connections.

The storage area network is created using the MDS 9509 switches. At each site, four of these switches link servers to several storage systems from Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) in the data centers. Hitachi remote data replication software helps keep the storage systems in sync.

For network connectivity outside the data centers, the MDS 9509s are equipped with MDS 9000 IP Storage Service Modules, which encapsulate Fibre Channel traffic within IP packets, using FCIP (Fibre Channel over IP), a protocol that's being standardized by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

When asked about this project at the conference, Nortel’s Syngal pointed out that the IP was running over SDH and maintained that it's the SDH that enables Euronext LIFFE to meet its capacity and latency requirements. He questioned the benefits of having an IP layer, saying that running storage protocols directly over SDH was a better option.Unfortunately, neither Elkes nor a Cisco representative was present, so the remarks went unchallenged. However, in Elkes’s earlier briefing, he’d said that IP gave Euronext LIFFE an open platform, enabling it to handle any protocol by encapsulating it in IP packets.

Elkes also said that his project, which started out as an effort to consolidate 11 data centers into two, had resulted in his business division becoming more of a service provider than before. Having an IP platform has probably helped in this transition, because it enables Euronext LIFFE to address a wider range of customer requirements. It follows a general trend among service providers that want to consolidate LAN, WAN, and SAN traffic on one backbone (see BT Cranks Up SANs on the MAN).

"It's not just us [and Euronext LIFFE] saying that storage over IP is ready for mission-critical situations," says Cisco spokesman Marc Musgrove in an email. "The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) has just published an overview on how FCIP can be used across SDH/Sonet, WDM and IP networks for mission critical business continuance projects."

From Cisco's perspective, the Euronext LIFFE job is significant because it will be the first large-scale optical-over-storage customer announcement Cisco's had in Europe. Musgrove says the deal is the first publicly announced sale to result from Cisco's arrangement with Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), which is one of the four resellers it's lined up to peddle the MDS line worldwide (see Cisco Puffs Up Reseller Deals).

The contract's value was not disclosed. Cisco says it was the result of a multivendor RFP win, but Euronext LIFFE won't confirm the claim. So it's tough to say whether Cisco won against competitors in the SAN-over-optical space, which include the likes of ADVA AG Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV) and Nortel.Still, Cisco's ready to tout its SAN sales, a relatively small but increasingly important part of its overall strategy (see Cisco Reports $10M SAN Sales and Cisco's VP of Storage Sales Quits).

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, and Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading

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