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Storage Pipeline: Vendor Profile: Cisco Systems

The reality is that even with all the hoopla over IP storage, FC remains the SAN technology of choice among most Fortune 500 enterprises, so Cisco bought some FC insurance with Andiamo. The move paid off quickly: Resellers were only fully qualified to sell Cisco's newly acquired MDS 9000 series FC switch products as of July 2003, yet Cisco captured double-digit market share in FC in just three quarters. Not bad for a newcomer.

Where does that leave iSCSI? The aftermath of Cisco's acquisition of IP storage switch-maker NuSpeed Internet Systems was the first sign of trouble. NuSpeed's platform was problematic, and iSCSI standards were late, so it never took off. Cisco cut loose the NuSpeed group in February of last year. Most recently, the company announced it would scrap plans to develop an iSCSI initiator, saying initiators were being developed by Microsoft and other OS vendors.

Bill Erdman, director of Cisco's DWSS (data center, wireless, storage and switching) technologies, admits the company's statements on storage might seem confusing or contradictory. But Cisco still believes economic models drive the long-term direction of storage, he says, and ultimately, that means Ethernet. FC is the norm today, he says.

Cisco now considers iSCSI as a way to connect outlying servers to an FC fabric. Erdman won't speculate further on the future of iSCSI, however, nor discuss any plans for renewing Cisco's iSCSI development efforts. But he admits that Cisco's storage strategy came from some hard-knock lessons in the preferences and requirements of a new kind of customer for Cisco: the data center storage pro.

SAN Switch Market

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