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SAN-in-a-box scores with Fibre Channel fans

Are cheap Fibre Channel bundles just in time - or too little, too late?

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As iSCSI gains traction in the market, cheaper Fibre Channel is back on the agenda this week, with both EMC and Fujitsu-Siemens picking up 4Gig SAN-in-a-box packages assembled by Emulex and Brocade. Could this be the long-awaited low-end breakthrough for Fibre Channel?

EMC's version is an upgrade to the 2Gig InstaSAN package that it's been selling for a while now. Intended for the Clariion AX150 array, it includes two Emulex LightPulse HBAs, an eight-port Brocade switch, cabling, and what Emulex optimistically calls "intuitive installation and management software".

The equivalent from Fujitsu-Siemens Computers includes a disk array as well, but goes by the playschool name of My Very First SAN. A company spokesman apologised, and claimed that all the good names had already gone - although he also seemed to think that HP's My First SAN qualified as 'good'.

Anyhow, FSC reckons that by pruning the package down to a 500GB FibreCAT SX60 disk array, eight-port Brocade switch and a single 2Gig Emulex HBA, it can sell it for just EUR 8000, which is around £5400. OK, so calling it a SAN when it only connects one server is perhaps a bit optimistic - but the company offers larger configurations too, including those 4Gig ones.

"Thanks to our complete solution, even smaller companies can now start reaping the benefits of having a SAN for their data storage, reflecting today's high demands for information availability and security," declared FSC storage veep Dr Helmut Beck.

Packages of this kind have been around for several years. For example, three years ago QLogic introduced a €10,000 package called SAN-in-a-Box, comprising an eight-port Fibre Channel switch, four host adapters, cabling and management software.

The fact that that amount of money will now get you a disk array as well shows just how much Fibre Channel prices have fallen. Also significant is the work that Fibre Channel developers have put into making their equipment easy to set up and use - for smaller installations at least.

So if these packages work it is more likely to be as door-openers, in persuading SMBs that Fibre Channel isn't quite as expensive or complex as the iSCSI salesperson told them last week. ®

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