Cisco Enters Storage Market

Networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. has made plans to enter the storage industry for years, but remained on the sidelines, joining industry groups, but releasing no products. Today Cisco has entered the storage market with a storage router, and revealed its storage strategy.

Cisco unveiled its SR-5420 storage router at Storage Networking World. The router is designed to support the nascent iSCSI standard, a SCSI-over-IP implementation. iSCSI enables block-level storage traffic over IP networks, eliminating the need for Fibre Channel or another networking protocol for SAN implementations.

iSCSI enables users to connect servers and storage systems using standard IP NICs, rather than specialized Fiber Channel or VI host-bus-adapters, which are expensive and suffer compatibility issues.

In addition to the router, Cisco also released iSCSI drivers, to enable iSCSI traffic. Mark Cree, general manager, storage router business unit at Cisco, says the drivers work transparently – when accessing a networked storage device, the server thinks it is accessing a local drive. “The driver intercepts the system call and moves it out to the NIC,” Cree says.

Cisco offers the iSCSI drivers for free download on its website. Cree says it also offering the source code to vendors interested in writing drivers. It is not open-sourcing the drivers, but offering a licensing program for vendor interoperability.

Although Cisco is making every effort to spur iSCSI adoption, “This is not a religious play for Cisco,” Cree says.

Cree says Cisco is working with Brocade Communications Systems, Inc. to support Brocade’s Fiber Channel over IP implementation. According to Cree, Cisco is developing a Fibre Channel to WAN gateway router to enable users to connect SANs across long distances.

Cisco purchased NuSpeed, a developer of iSCSI products last year, signaling it planned to enter the storage market. This is the first product either NuSpeed or Cisco have released. Christopher McConnell

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.