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Tech allies demo storage at a distance

Sprint, Cisco and Hitachi team up to demonstrate data replication can be done using a relatively cheap IP network that covers more than 3,600 miles.

A partnership of Sprint, Cisco and Hitachi Data Systems said on Tuesday it has shown that a kind of data replication can be done on a relatively cheap Internet Protocol network at a distance of more than 3,600 miles.

Sprint said the achievement, of so-called asynchronous data replication using Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) technology, could have major implications on how companies deploy business continuity strategies.

Richard Villars, a storage systems analyst for market research firm IDC, agreed the announcement was significant. He suggested Sprint's successful test promises less-expensive, long-distance data protection. "It's giving people more cost-effective options for their disaster-recovery plans," he said.

Asynchronous data replication is a method of copying a company's data to a distant location. The approach has been hindered by the need to create or lease a dedicated fiber-optic network, which is expensive, Villars said.

The Sprint, Cisco, Hitachi test shows a company can save money by using its existing IP network connections, Sprint said. Audrey Harman, technical staff manager at Sprint, suggested most corporations aren't aware they can use Fibre Channel over IP connectivity technology to replicate data at a distance.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, companies have grown interested in backing up their data at sites not only in the same geographic region but also many miles away, Villars said. In addition, government rules may soon require some companies to be able to replicate their data at remote locations, said Oliver Valente, vice president of technology development at Sprint.

The data replication test was completed using existing technologies, the companies said. It employed a network connection running from a Sprint lab in Overland Park, Kan., to another Sprint facility in Burlingame, Calif., and back again, for a simulated Fibre Channel-over-IP connection covering 3,600 miles.

The equipment used to create the link included private Sprint circuits, Cisco MDS 9000 storage area network switches with Cisco MDS 9000 IP Storage Services modules and Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 V Series systems, running Hitachi TrueCopy data replication software.

"What made this unique was the configuration that engineers at Sprint, Cisco and Hitachi Data Systems teamed to develop," Valente said.

Sprint, Cisco and Hitachi aren't the only companies working on remote data replication. IBM recently said it is releasing an upgrade to its Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy technology.