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Storage Managers Ponder New Interconnects

A quick scan of recent headlines shows a growing list of networking schemes aimed at linking equipment in enterprise data centers. But storage managers may be able to sit out the current kerfuffles over InfiniBand versus 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, RDMA, iWARP, OpenFabrics Enterprise Distribution, and the like.

This week's Supercomputing 07 (SC07) conference in Reno, Nevada, was a showcase for storage vendors pursuing the high-performance computing (HPC) market. Most announcements and demos centered on InfiniBand as a mainstay interconnect, with multiprotocol "gateways" from Cisco, Voltaire, and Qlogic in the mix.

At least one analyst, however, thinks storage pros can use a fine-gauged filter right now.

"We don't see InfiniBand as the primary storage interconnect now or in the future," says analyst Bob Wheeler of the Linley Group consultancy. While InfiniBand will continue to reign as the network for localized server clusters, in his view Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) is the protocol for storage professionals to watch.

"There have been some significant recent announcements from Cisco/Nuova, Emulex, QLogic, and Intel on the Ethernet NIC side of FCoE," Wheeler says. In the future, while high-end storage arrays will continue to support Fibre Channel even as faster Ethernet spreads, he envisions FCoE NICs eliminating the need for servers to sport dueling Fibre Channel HBAs and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet NICs.

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