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IBM signs up CNT's mega-director

Could a box with 256 4Gig ports simplify your SAN?

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IBM has signed up CNT's UltraNet Multiservice Director (UMD) as the new high end of its TotalStorage SAN range.

"If you need a high port count, go with CNT," says Scott Drummond, IBM's storage networking programme director. "UMD is the first choice for an ultra-scaleable Fibre Channel and FICON director over local, metro and global distances."

The UMD design is modular with 5Tbps of system throughput, which allows it to support up to 512 non-blocking 4Gbps Fibre ports. The first models go up to 256 ports, and CNT will also have an entry level box with just 32 ports. CNT's Euro marketing director Robin Pilcher says more ports per box means a simpler SAN, as less are needed for inter-switch links.

"It's a new family with a 4:1 footprint reduction, which we're very happy about, and it has slicker partitioning into logical SANs than the previous generation," says Drummond. He adds that, by comparison, "Cisco's largest is 224, and in reality it's more like 192. But Cisco is the way to go if you want to marry Ethernet and Fibre Channel."

UMD's modular design will enable CNT to put its FCIP wide area SAN technology into a blade alongside the linecards. Drummond says that CNT is IBM's major supplier for Fibre Channel extension technology, alongside some 17 other vendors.

Although the CNT box has more ports than Brocade's SilkWorm 24000, the Cisco MDS 9000 or McData's Intrepid 6140, all of which IBM also resells, Drummond says there is rarely sales conflict between the four product lines.

"We have had good luck with all four - customers pretty much self-select," he explains. "We don't have many director customers who don't already have other equipment, and interoperability is still a dodgy proposition fabric-wide. CNT and Brocade have done some work, but interoperability mode deletes some of the higher level functionality."

This week also saw IBM announce an enhanced SAN Volume Controller blade for the MDS 9000. Jointly developed with Cisco, this embeds storage virtualisation software within the director, with the new version adding support for both iSCSI and non-IBM storage arrays.

And it announced that McData's Eclipse 1620 SAN router has successfully completed TotalStorage interoperability testing. This is the device that McData bought with its acquisition of Nishan Systems, and which can interconnect SANs over IP networks via iSCSI or iFCP. ®

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