Storage networking vendor Computer Network Technology Corp. (CNT) has announced a business continuity service that uses undersea fibre-optic cables to mirror data between the U.S. and Europe at gigabit speeds.

Minneapolis-based CNT said it's partnering with Columbia Ventures Corp.'s Hibernia Atlantic subsidiary to offer the mirroring service. Using CNT's storage switches, the fiber-optic lines can replicate block-level data asynchronously using the Fibre Channel-over-IP protocol across the Atlantic at speeds approaching that of a Fibre Channel network, or 1.6Gbit/sec., with a network latency of 63 milliseconds, the companies said.

Tony Prigmore, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group in Milford, Mass., said that with an 11-second fail-over time for a 60GB Microsoft Exchange database and a $10,000-per-month provisioning charge, the relatively low-cost service offers "serious data protection" and should quickly gain momentum. He said the service is well positioned to attract interest from shops that now deploy distance storage as well as those eyeing distance storage for the first time.

"This means new levels of protection are now available to tiers of application and corporate data that previously were not deemed worth the expense of protection," Prigmore said.

Vancouver, Wash.-based Columbia Ventures said last month that it had bought the 12,200-kilometer fiber-optic cable system connecting North America to Europe from 360networks Corp. and renamed the unit Hibernia Atlantic. The redundant ring has immediate capacity of up of up to 160Gbit/sec. on each path, according to David Barton, vice president of North American sales at CNT.

That gives Hibernia Atlantic bandwidth that's equivalent to that of all other existing trans-Atlantic cables combined, CNT and Columbia Ventures claimed. The fiber-optic network has landing stations near Boston and Halifax, Nova Scotia, in North America and Dublin and Liverpool, England, in Europe, but companies in New York can connect to the Hibernia ring as well.

CNT's switches sit at the edge of data centers on either side of the Atlantic and wrap Fibre Channel packets in IP headers for transport over Ethernet. Once the packets reach either side of the two data centers, the second switch strips the IP headers off, converting the packets back to Fibre Channel to be stored on disk.

CNT and Hibernia held a demonstration of the undersea mirroring service in Boston, simulating the recovery of a Microsoft Exchange e-mail application running live in Dublin and generating simulated traffic for 2,000 end users in the U.S. CNT's UltraNet Edge storage switch was used to manage the conversion of data between the Fibre Channel and Synchronous Digital Hierarchy for transport across the Atlantic.

The demonstration also used EMC Corp.'s Symmetrix Remote Data Facility software and two of its Clariion disk arrays to replicate the data between the two continents. Once the Exchange server in Dublin was cut off, the Boston data center was able to recover in three minutes, Barton said.