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October 28, 1999

Ancor Goes Private Loop With 64-Way FC Switches

By CBR Staff Writer

By William Fellows

Ancor Communications Corp hopes to get ahead in the Fibre Channel switch market next week by offering up a new line of SANbox products with up to 64-ports. Ancor claims the switches can route data at 500 nanosecond, less than one third of the time it takes its competitors’ products to do the same including Brocade Communications and EMC’s McData. The 64-way device is due in January.

SANbox uses a fifth generation of Ancor’s ASIC and is Ancor’s first product which incorporates support for private loop Fibre Channel storage networking which can support up to 127 nodes within a company site. Until now Ancor has only supported public loop switching, an implementation of the Fibre Channel standard which includes a nameserver directory for doing device discovery that supports up to 16m nodes on storage area networks (SANs) which could span different countries. Only the low-end eight port SANbox SL does not support private loop, though it is upgradeable with software.

Ancor claims that other vendors with private loop products have simply not bothered to implement the nameserver and they will need to upgrade because the industry will demand private and public loops networks. But the business is in private loops at the moment, why is why Brocade’s stock is up above $260 and Ancor’s is nearer $30.

Ancor’s OEM relationship with Sun Microsystems Inc means Sun now owns a very small percentage of the company which could rise to a 6% stake if Sun shifts are large number of Ancor units. Ancor gave its APIs to Sun which it is building into its Jiro storage management software. Ancor claims Brocade didn’t want the deal with Sun because it didn’t want to do the integration work.

In trying to put the de facto Fibre Channel standards into perspective Ancor says the MIB being created by FibreAlliance should be viewed just like those that Sun, HP and others have. It’s just that more vendors are participating. The EMC management infrastructure is a proprietary GUI-driven environment, but that’s nothing to do with the MIB.

Fibre channel and optical network equipment stocks are rocketing on the expectation that these devices will connect new generations of networks, but to drive SANs into widespread use Ancor vendors’ server and storage-centric views of the world will have to merge so they become synonymous. Compaq, Sun, HP et al still haven’t adequately explained the advantages and benefits of SANs, it says. While NT servers are making inroads into the Unix server marketplace because they can run individual workloads well, access to data from NT servers is still problematic. Moreover the artificial distinction between SANs and network attached storage (NAS) is also holding up adoption: SAN is SCSI and NAS equals IP, Ancor says.

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