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IBM inks storage deal with Adaptec

Big Blue plans to use network cards and chips from Adaptec that support connections via iSCSI, which uses regular IP and Ethernet networks to link storage systems.

IBM has signed a deal to use Adaptec hardware for a new technology that links storage systems using conventional computer networks.

Storage systems are increasingly communicating to servers over networks rather than through a direct, dedicated attachment, but to achieve high performance, the network must incorporate an expensive and complex communications standard called Fibre Channel.

IBM, Cisco Systems, Adaptec and others are pushing a technology called iSCSI that uses regular networks based on the less exotic Internet Protocol (IP) and Ethernet standards used in corporate networks, as well as the Internet itself, to skirt Fibre Channel.

The main drawback of iSCSI, though, is that preparing packets of information for the IP network sops up large amounts of processing power. To work effectively, iSCSI-based networks need special-purpose chips to handle data transfers only.

Under the deal announced Friday, Adaptec, a large manufacturer of network cards, will supply IBM with cards and chips that support iSCSI connections using 1-gigabit-per-second and 10-gigabit-per-second speeds, the companies said.

"This iSCSI design win validates Adaptec's architecture, chips and software," Merrill Lynch financial analyst John Roy said in a report Friday. "While IBM hasn't disclosed details of its plans for iSCSI products, usage of Adaptec's iSCSI technology across the complete IBM product line could add $70 (million to) $120 million in revenue over the next two years."

iSCSI is not yet a formally ratified standard. Supporters expect the technology to be standardized by mid-2002.