Disaster recovery as a marketing "buzz-phrase" sounds rather disastrous. We all have an idea what it means, but it does have some negative connotations. Not the least, it presupposes a disaster. The (politically) correct form of words nowadays is not even disaster recovery solution, despite its emphatic, upbeat ending. What you need to consider is a "business continuity solution." In plain English, that often means offsite storage of critical data, and the modern way is for it to be based on optical solutions, the only means of managing the enormous volumes of live data, such as are generated by the financial sector. Not only are prudent companies now taking storage far more seriously, but many governments also are taking steps to force companies to protect the data upon which business depends.
Despite this supposed urgency, there is contradictory pressure hindering the proliferation of optical storage solutions: the numerous blanket restrictions on capital expenditures. In the current climate an optical storage solution package must offer further benefits, especially in terms of operational cost savings.
With that in mind and in recognition of the substantial market opportunity in meeting the storage needs of the enterprise sector, Nortel Networks is expanding its optical storage-networking strategy to encompass SDH (and SONET) technologies. By adding storage over SONET and SDH interfaces across its OPTera Metro Multiservice Platform portfolio, Nortel says it will enable small and medium enterprises to meet the requirements of "mission-critical" storage applications and extend SANs over much longer distances. These interfaces will be available by next month.
Chris Sweetapple, manager of enterprise optical networks, says, "A lot of smaller customers are saying they are really fed up with IT because it's not a competitive weapon in business—it's more of a necessary evil. We want the customers' need for protocol conversion to be removed. This [storage over SDH] development is a logical extension to what customers already have."
The primary opportunity with the new service will be storage over SDH, but not just storage. For example, it will enable optical Ethernet networking. Nortel says it is moving beyond its traditional customer area of Fortune 500 companies and into the broader market of small-to-medium enterprises.
Sweetapple adds, "Customers will have to draw their own conclusions but we believe that they will be able to save as much as they have to invest in this."
Coincidentally, on the day of the Nortel announcement in Europe, rival Cisco Systems was itself easing storage extension over IP/Fibre Channel (FC). Cisco has introduced three IP storage-networking products to allow customers to expand FC SANs to additional servers and applications across local, metro, and wide-area distances. These products are designed to connect to FC-attached devices using either the Internet small computer systems interface (iSCSI) or FC over IP protocols.
"IP storage-networking technologies take advantage of connectivity provided by IP to extend the value and utility of Fibre Channel SANs," says James Opfer, research vice president at Gartner Dataquest. "iSCSI offers very favourable incremental cost for each additional server connected to a SAN, especially for small servers where the cost of Fibre Channel host bus adapters is prohibitive. FCIP is a SAN extension technology that allows users to interconnect SANs well beyond the reach of pure Fibre Channel, making it useful for business continuity applications."
Business buzz-phrases change more often than Bookham Technology changes its logo. Proponents of storage solutions—whether for scary disaster recovery or cosy business continuity—like to remind the marketplace on a frequent basis that the question to ask is not so much "what will it cost me to secure my data" as "what will it cost me if it is no longer there?"
Are you scared enough to reach for your cheque book? After all, there are plenty of things to buy.
Editor in Chief, Lightwave Europe