Vendors put storage nets to the test

Users who want to evaluate the performance and integrity of IP storage technologies before they install them could be interested in gear Empirix Inc. and Finisar Corp. introduced recently.

Empirix, a vendor of network test equipment, is launching the PacketSphere Storage Test Platform; Finisar is rolling out the GTX Jammer for iSCSI. Both products let IT managers verify the performance and data integrity of IP storage iSCSI and Fibre Channel-over-IP networks.

As iSCSI and Fibre Channel over IP are just beginning to be implemented, it is appropriate for customers to test IP storage configurations for performance, throughput and interoperability before deploying them so they can avoid the interoperability problems that plagued Fibre Channel storage-area network (SAN) adoption, experts say. Using a device such as the PacketSphere or GTX Jammer lets this happen.

PacketSphere is a hardware device that can simulate physical layer network traffic and determine its effect on throughput, performance and quality. For example, the PacketSphere device sits between the Fibre Channel gateway to the SAN and the IP network and can introduce test problems such as packet latency, duplicate packets or router congestion into the network that would reduce its performance. The product works on IP storage networks such as iSCSI, Fibre Channel over IP and network-attached storage.

The GTX Jammer for iSCSI also lets an IT manager inject errors into the network to test for data integrity, so they can guarantee that the network will recover without losing data or slowing network traffic. The GTX Jammer connects to the Ethernet network adapter in the server via a 100M bit/sec Fast Ethernet connector and to the SAN fabric. Unlike the Empirix PacketSphere, it changes the composition of the packet and adds erroneous information to test for conditions that could happen in real life.

A bank could use the GTX Jammer to check the veracity of the data. It could detect protocol errors such as invalid cyclic redundancy checks that may indicate that someone changed the contents of a packet.

“In many cases if you go to production without knowing the ramifications the technology is going to have on a larger network, you’re going to face some challenges in terms of network outages, saturation, performance issues and ultimately, just plain old downtime, which no one really wants,” says Jamie Gruener, a senior analyst with the Yankee Group.

“Users need to test their networks because the mileage and application performance they are going to get are going to vary with iSCSI and Fibre Channel over IP,” Gruener says. “Until we know more, customers should take the additional research and understand what they are getting before they go out and deploy a full network and spend a lot of money on something that won’t give them the necessary performance.”

The PacketSphere starts at US$24,500 and is available now; the GTX Jammer for iSCSI starts at $40,000 and requires a hardware-based protocol analyzer. It will be available next month.

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