Sanrad Eyes Enterprise

Aims IP SAN switch as alternative to storage routers in larger installations

February 22, 2006

4 Min Read
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Taking a different approach than traditional IP SAN vendors, Sanrad is aiming for the enterprise with a new high-end system that rivals storage routers.

Sanrad has launched the V-Switch 3800, the largest of its switches that connect Fibre Channel systems to attached storage through iSCSI. The iSCSI V-Switch 3800 is our new flagship V-Switch,” Sanrad CEO Uli Gal-Oz says.

Like Sanrad’s other switches, The V-Switch 3800 has Fibre Channel and iSCSI ports, but it has more of them to connect more storage. The V-Switch 3800 has eight Fibre Channel and three iSCSI ports. The existing midrange V-Switch 3000 has four Fibre Channel and two iSCSI, and the departmental V-Switch 2000 has two of each. Sanrad also offers software that handles remote replication, volume management, snapshots, redundant mirroring, and other management features. (See Sanrad Ships GDR Solution.)

The V-Switch 3800 is the latest take on Sanrad's unusual -- but not unique -- approach to IP SANs. (See IP SANs Struggle for Respect.) Other startups such as EqualLogic, Intransa, LeftHand Neworks, and Nimbus Data sell dedicated SANs based on iSCSI. Established storage vendors EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, IBM, and Network Appliance provide either an iSCSI connection to Fibre Channel SANs or a lower-end SAN based on iSCSI.

The advantage of Sanrad switches is that they allow users to pool storage across any array -- Fibre Channel, iSCSI, or Ethernet. In this regard, Sanrad’s approach is more like the mulitiprotocol routers from Brocade, Cisco, and McData at about half the price. The V-Switch 3800 will cost $39,000 when it becomes generally available next month. Notably, though, Sanrad doesn't offer as many iSCSI ports as the router products do.Analyst Greg Schulz of The StorageIO Group, thinks Sanrad switches allow customers to “test the waters” with iSCSI without replacing Fibre Channel storage. “The customer doesn’t have to take the existing Fibre Channel storage out, iSCSI can co-exist with it,” Schulz explains. “And the switches can be used for hand-me-down arrays that used to be primary storage, in situations where the customer upgrades but still wants to use his old storage.”

Compared to other IP SAN vendors, Sanrad's product is closest to StoneFly’s. But StoneFly’s gear doesn’t go beyond two iSCSI and either two SCSI or two Fibre Channel ports. And the startup had to be rescued from extinction last month by Dynamic Network Factory. (See StoneFly Officially Lands in DNF.)

Still, Sanrad’s move into enterprise environments remains a work in progress. The V-Switch 3800 only supports 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel at a time when the industry is moving to 4 Gbit/s, plus it has fewer iSCSI ports than switch vendors' routers. Sanrad plans to support 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel, add Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS), and increase iSCSI ports, but not until 2007.

Another downside: Sanrad's architecture could scare off users who would rather not place another box in their SAN. “There’s always the issue of, ‘That’s another appliance I have to put in front of my storage,’” Schulz notes. “A lot of people would like to have fewer appliances.”

The need for an extra appliance didn’t bother Kevin Mount, network administrator for the Spokane Public School District in Spokane, Washington. Mount purchased two $24,000 V-Switch 3000 switches last year to pool 24 Tbytes of direct attached storage spread among Gateway SATA RAID systems.The Spokane district stores its primary data on a Xiotech Magnitude 3D Fibre Channel SAN, but it places student’s shared storage on the Gateway boxes. According to Mount, the district will soon install security cameras and store the video on the Gateway systems. He wanted an easier way to manage the storage on the Gateways.

“We wanted an IP SAN to make that direct attached storage more flexible,” Mount says. “Before, each Gateway box had 2 Tbytes connected to a server and you’re stuck with that server even if it didn’t need 2 Tbytes. We wanted to be able to take that 2 Tbytes and break it up into chunks.

“I looked at NAS, but most of our workstations have a Novell client and most [low-end] NAS were Windows Storage Server-based. We looked at a NetApp system with an iSCSI interface, but NetApp is real expensive.”

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Dynamic Network Factory Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • EqualLogic Inc.

  • Gateway Inc.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Intransa Inc.

  • LeftHand Networks Inc.

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Nimbus Data Systems Inc.

  • Sanrad Inc.

  • The StorageIO Group0

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