Cisco Joins Sonet SAN Club

Adds Fibre Channel to ONS 15454, part of the growing metro optical SAN extension crowd

September 9, 2003

2 Min Read
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Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is the latest metro optical networking vendor to make a play for the storage networking market.

Cisco has introduced a four-port SL-Series card for its ONS 15454 platform, with each port able to carry 1- or 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel. The idea is that service providers or enterprise customers can add a blade and upgrade the software in any installed ONS 15454 to handle native Fibre Channel to extend a SAN over an existing Sonet/SDH network.

The move doesnt come as a huge surprise, seeing as just about every metro optical networking vendor is moving -- or has already moved -- into the SAN extension area. Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) just paid $45 million to purchase privately held Akara Corp., which markets SAN extension gear designed for the Sonet/SDH market (see Ciena Plunks Down $45M for Akara). Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) also recently introduced SAN extension features to its Sonet/SDH gear. It’s been known that both Cisco and Nortel were moving in this direction since the beginning of the year (see Nortel Pipes SANs Into Sonet and SANs See Sonet).

Moves by the likes of Ciena, Nortel, and Cisco show that SAN extension may have become a table-stakes feature in metro-networking gear, especially as telecom carriers develop a growing interest in storage services.

Scott Messenger, director of product marketing for Cisco, says carriers and enterprises are interested in adding the capabilities because 2-Gig Fibre Channel connections can provide greater capacity and allow network operators to integrate Fibre Channel into existing infrastructure without building an overlay network."From an optical networking point of view, we’re going to develop interfaces for whatever's coming off of those storage switches," says Messenger.

Analysts view Cisco’s moves as an incremental, but not earth-shattering, upgrade.

”Nobody’s buying too much of anything, but SAN is the most interesting thing out there,” says Sam Greenholtz, a principal with Telecom Pragmatics Inc. “The big news will come when Cisco introduces its next-generation Sonet/SDH system.”

Speaking of a next-generation Sonet system, Cisco officials were mum on any follow-up product to the ONS 15454, but Greenholtz noted that the product line, introduced in 1998, may be starting to show its age, and that Cisco is believed to be developing a next-generation system. He points to recent efforts by competitors such as Nortel and Fujitsu Ltd. (OTC: FJTSY) as putting the pressure on Cisco to come out with a new product.

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, and Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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