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Storage networking fans move ahead

Storage networking advocates are gaining traction, as Inrange announces an IBM deal and Vixel touts new gear.

Advocates of special-purpose networks dedicated to transferring data to storage systems are moving ahead.

High-end networking equipment maker Inrange has announced that IBM will sell its products, while networking chipmaker Vixel debuts a new chip and sets off in a new direction.

IBM will sell Inrange's top-end FC9000 switch, which has 256 ports for connecting servers and storage systems to each other with the high-speed Fibre Channel storage networking technology, Inrange said Tuesday.

The deal is important because interoperability headaches in the Fibre Channel world have put a premium on sales partnerships, which assure customers that different components will work together. Fibre Channel networks have administration and speed advantages, but their use has been bogged down by expense and complexity.

The FC9000 currently supports 1 gigabit-per-second connections, not the newer 2gbps speeds in the latest Fibre Channel gear. On the plus side, though, Inrange supports Ficon connections to IBM mainframes.

Vixel, meanwhile, announced a chip on Monday that lets hardware makers embed Fibre Channel switches into storage systems. The technology enables use of the networking technology to connect components within storage systems. BlueArc, for example, is using it within its Si7500 high-speed storage system.

Fibre Channel switches aren't unique to Vixel, though, and companies have been casting about for product niches. Last week, networking giant Cisco Systems announced it would use QLogic's switch chip in a new storage networking product that uses both Fibre Channel and a newer rival technology, iSCSI.