Nortel, Cisco extend Fibre Channel traffic over SONET

Nortel Networks Corp. announced Tuesday that it has added Fibre Channel storage over synchronous optical networks (SONET) to its product offerings, allowing carriers that use the company’s optical switches to offer customers the ability to transmit block-level data over thousands of miles for replication and backup.

By using readily available Sonet networks, companies can tunnel between storage-area networks (SAN) across distances for disaster recovery and business continuity without having to purchase expensive multiprotocol switches for their data centers.

In related news, Cisco Systems Inc. Tuesday announced it has added dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) for its ONS 15454 metro optical transport system for transport over Sonet.

“What we announced today is for Fibre Channel or Ficon or Gigabit Ethernet,” said Rob Koslowsky, director of marketing for Cisco’s optical networks group.

By using an eight-port Fibre Channel/Gigabit Ethernet conversion card on the Cisco ONS 15530 Multiservice Aggregation Platform, users can transmit block-level or file-level data onto DWDM, which is designed primarily for metro interoffice connections among central offices, collocation offices or enterprise and campus facilities with bandwidth requirements up to 10G bit/sec.

Sonet is a widely available protocol that most telecommunications carriers use to send data traffic over distance. Sonet can use any private line, whether it’s T3, T1, DS1 or Asynchronous Transfer Mode frame relay or IP traffic.

Nortel Networks added storage over Sonet and Synchronous Digital Hierarchy on its Optera Metro Multiservice switches, including the Metro 5000 series for carriers and on the Metro 3500 switch. The Metro 5000 switches are expected to be available in early April; the Metro 3500 is expected to be available in July.

Nortel is using a new blade device, which relies on generic framing procedure (GFP) to encapsulate Fibre Channel packets for transport over Sonet to enable the long-distance replication of data.

“This allows a carrier customer to get an OC3 circuit from a carrier and then plug a Fibre Channel switch directly into that Sonet circuit and carry [block-level data] across distance in a cost-effective manner,” said Jack Hunt, director of marketing for storage networking solutions at Brampton, Ontario-based Nortel.

Currently, moving block-level data father than 120 miles requires using multiprotocol switches that take advantage of several storage over IP protocols, including Internet Fibre Channel Protocol, Fibre Channel over IP and Internet Small Computer System Interface.

Nishan Systems Inc. in San Jose and Cisco are both vendors of storage over IP switches.

GFP promises to merge the worlds of Ethernet and Sonet more efficiently by encapsulating frame-organized data traffic such as Fibre Channel.

“Up until now, you would have had to map [Fibre Channel traffic] into IP to go across Sonet. By direct mapping using GFP, you achieve a standardized way to wrap the header information from Sonet around the Fibre Channel packet,” Hunt said.

Most large enterprises today use DWDM to connect multiple SANs to each other or to secondary backup sites. But Fibre Channel, the most common network protocol used between data centers for transport of block-level data, has a distance limit of about 62 miles. Nortel claims to support about 80 percent of SAN extensions over DWDM with its Optera Metro 5200 optical switch.