In a feat that wouldn't be out of place in the Guinness Book of World Records, Cisco has claimed ownership of the world's longest storage network - a distance of 3,600 miles using Fibre Channel over IP.
While covering such a distance with back-up data may appear to be completely pointless from a business perspective (even nuclear bombs only have a range of 40 miles), it is, says Cisco a "proof-of-concept demonstration" that "serves as a meaningful example of business continuity solutions they can deploy using technologies that are possible today".
There is no theoretical distance limit to fibre channel over IP anyway because you can use the Internet - but to build a physical link that long is an achievement in itself.
The demonstration started in a lab owned by Sprint in Kansas and using a continuous loop, a 3,600-miles connection was simulated back to itself. Unfortunately, this, we believe, is where Norris McWhirter would draw the line. A simulation is no good - we want the real thing stretched far far across America.
That's harder than it may seem. It is only 1,500 miles from Kansas to San Francisco on the far West coast. Instead, the wires would have to stretch all the way down Mexico, over the Darien Gap and down to Lima in Peru. In a UK-centered way, 3,600 miles from London is a bit further than New York, much further than Baghdad and a little less than Nairobi in Kenya.
There was a serious point in all this though. Many companies, especially financial companies, need to back-up their systems at a safe distance away from themselves. Using currently ESCON technology, this distance is restricted to 18 miles. Using the latest FICON technology, this is increased to 62 miles.
What Cisco is saying is that its FCIP technology can be used to stretch as far as you'd every want to go. Just a shame that storage company CNT has already proved this by, together with Compaq, running a SAN across three global sites, one in the US, one in the UK and one in Australia. It's not as fast as dedicated short-range fibre channels but it is still quick. There are clear worries about security though.
Presumably Cisco is aiming at the middle market. Having a physical wire is very reassuring to companies and with FCIP you can have that but without being restricted to 18 or 62 miles. The plus about this is not fear that a disaster at HQ could also bring down the back-up, it is that with an extended distance, huge savings can be made in terms of land and location. Eighteen miles out of Central London and prices will still be high. Sixty-two miles much cheaper. But if you could have 200 miles, you could buy a building for next to nothing. It works out cheaper and Cisco gets paid for providing the link.
But back to the storage competition: Wouldn't that be an interesting thing to set in motion? The longest physical fibre channel storage network? Just an idea.