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Bridging the iSCSI Gap

Demand for low-end connectivity between iSCSI and Fibre Channel storage equipment is driving development of new, low-cost bridges that link the two worlds.

Industry sources say that small to medium-sized firms are often the ones eyeing IP storage. But these companies don't want a wholesale move to iSCSI. Instead, they want it to augment existing Fibre Channel gear. For SMBs with limited budgets, a bridge is often the simplest way to do this.

But up to now, there's been a dearth of lower-end FC-to-iSCSI bridges. A slew of higher-end solutions from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) perform iSCSI-to-FC conversions. But they can be overkill for smaller firms.

Cisco's SN 5428-2 Storage Router, for instance, comes with eight Fibre Channel ports and two IP ports. Though targeted at SMBs and departments, it's billed as a multiprotocol switch, with a starting price around $12,000. Sanrad Inc. has a similarly priced FC-to-iSCSI bridge.

A new breed of low-end bridge aims at a groundswell of interest in smaller connectivity wares. One of the first offerings is on the way from ATTO Technology Inc. This spring, ATTO plans to ship the iPBridge 2700C/R/D, which will link two Gigabit Ethernet-to-Fibre Channel ports with iSCSI support to two 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel ports. The bridge will be offered as a desktop unit or as a board for OEM use.

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