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Storage Technology Corp believes fiber channel-connected storage is set to explode as early as the beginning of next year, and to set the ball rolling the company has announced its first fiber channel-connected product, the 9137 30-Slot disk subsystem. While there are still some issues to overcome with industry standards for fiber channel, StorageTek says most of the ANSI standards have now been established, and many of the major vendors are conducting interoperability tests at a test bed at the University of New Hampshire at the moment. One of the major issues still outstanding is a specification for hubs, which is being worked on by the industry committee X3T11, and StorageTek hopes to see resolved shortly. The other issue, the company says, is that of host adapters and software drivers for fiber channel storage. Some vendors appear to be dragging their heels about adapting their software drivers for fiber channel. StorageTek says one of the big advantages for customers is being able to buy their servers from one vendor, and storage devices from another. However, a source at StorageTek says companies like Hewlett-Packard Co, for example, are perhaps in no rush to adapt their drivers for standard fiber channel connections because they would be just as happy for customers to buy servers and storage devices from the one company. Nevertheless, he believes within six months, customer demand will force all the major vendors to co-operate. StorageTek’s new subsystem has a Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop, FC-AL, host attachment, which also supports SCSI connections, enabling users to continue using their existing SCSI-connected storage. It will initially support Windows NT, and the company is positioning it as a transition product, enabling companies to protect their investment in SCSI while moving over to fiber channel. The company also demonstrated its hubs last week at a user forum, and had a fiber channel hub on display. It says it will be announcing a number of products in the coming months. Fiber channel should run at 100Mbps, which is more than twice as fast as SCSI, and enables the distance over which data can be transmitted to be extended ten-fold, with cabling distances up to 6 miles between nodes for disaster recovery systems. Compaq Computer Corp, Silicon Graphics Inc, Sequent Computer Systems Inc and Pyramid Technology Corp are among the companies currently testing interoperability.

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