McData Sticking With iFCP

Plans to make iFCP cornerstone of SAN extension strategy as it closes Nishan deal

September 20, 2003

3 Min Read
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McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) plans to continue to support the Internet Fibre Channel Protocol (iFCP), which is designed to extend SAN traffic over long distances, as it completes its acquisition of Nishan Systems Inc. (see McData Sweeps Up Nishan, Sanera and McData Closes Nishan Acquisition).

"We've always said we're going to keep iFCP," says Chris Drago, a McData spokesman. An article published last month in the IT trade magazine eWeek incorrectly reported that McData was planning to phase out support for the protocol.

In fact, far from phasing out iFCP, McData sees the technology as forming the cornerstone of its SAN extension strategy.

The iFCP specification, developed under the auspices of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), encapsulates Fibre Channel data in IP packets and maps IP addresses to individual Fibre Channel devices. That's a different approach from that taken by another IETF spec, Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP), which is a tunneling protocol that interconnects two FC fabrics to form one large fabric.

Bill Burger, McData's director of emerging technologies, says the protocol offers many benefits over FCIP that solve key customer problems. Because iFCP is a gateway protocol, it allows specific devices to connect on one side of a MAN or WAN link without merging a SAN fabric, which is required with FCIP."FCIP provides basic connectivity, but it does not address the additional requirements for fault isolation and does not provide as much security or flexibility as iFCP," he says.

To date, however, Nishan is the only vendor that has implemented iFCP -- most other IP-based Fibre Channel equipment in the industry uses FCIP for WAN connectivity, including products from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), CNT (Nasdaq: CMNT), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and SANcastle Technologies Inc. (which recently was acquired by LightSand Communications Corp.). (See LightSand Buys SANcastle, Cisco Touts Storage-Over-IP Project, CNT Flings FC Far & Wide, and Lucent & McData Shake SANs.)

There are technologies that perform gateway functions similar to iFCP to interconnect two SAN fabrics, including the Autonomous Regions with Domain Address Translation (AR/DAT) protocol and Cisco's proprietary Virtual SAN (VSAN) (see Cisco's VSANs: Hype or Innovation?).

Burger notes, though, that about 100 Nishan customers currently use its iFCP-based gateways and that the equipment is qualified with numerous OEM partners, including EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).

Meanwhile, prior to announcing the Nishan deal, McData had developed an FCIP blade for its directors, which it was set to release by the end of 2003 (see McData Packs in the Ports and McData Demos FCIP). Burger says that project has been canceled, and that future FCIP support will be developed by the Nishan team.After its acquisition of Nishan closes, McData plans to rename Nishan's Eclipse 3300 and Eclipse 4300. Drago says McData will also ship new low- and high-end versions of the Nishan iFCP routers by the end of this year, with an IP blade for the McData Intrepid directors scheduled to be available by mid-2004.

But he declined to provide details on the forthcoming products. "It's too early to be talking about speeds and feeds," Drago says.

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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