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IBM wades into corporate data storage

SAN--storage area networking--replaces previous server storage architectures, but the industry hasn't yet agreed on a standard technology.

IBM weighed in on the issue of high-volume corporate data storage with its own plan and set of products for helping large companies regain control of their exploding storage needs.

IBM today announced a storage area network (SAN) initiative and--with the help of technology from third parties--introduced several SAN products using the Fibre Channel connection system that underlies most SAN technology.

SANs split off a company's storage hardware into a realm that's separate from its servers, enabling storage equipment to be managed centrally. Typically, a SAN will have several storage devices, each available from several servers, compared to the earlier approach of assigning each server a storage system of its own.

Although many in the computer industry have embraced storage area networks, there are unresolved issues with getting new SAN hardware and software to work together. EMC, with its FibreAlliance, and Sun Microsystems, with its StoreX program, are working on separate initiatives to set standards for the SAN realm.

IBM said it will work with the Fibre Channel Association and the Storage Networking Industry Association to develop SAN standards.

Among the products announced today is the SAN Network Data Gateway, which lets older SCSI devices be plugged in to newer Fibre Channel networks. The product lets the storage devices be hooked up with servers from IBM, Sun, and Hewlett-Packard, as well as Intel-based servers running Microsoft Windows NT. The Network Data Gateway is based on technology from Pathlight Technology.

IBM also announced its Fibre Channel RAID Storage Server, a disk drive array system that can hold as much as 1 terabyte of data and be connected to two separate IBM, Sun, HP, or Windows NT servers.

In addition to the new hardware, IBM said it will add new Fibre Channel management software and storage area network services to help companies design, select, and set up storage area networks.

IBM also is offering a Fibre Channel hub based on equipment from Vixel Corporation. The seven-hub port lets several Fibre Channel devices be connected to each other.