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Agilent SAN tester tracks Fibre Channel packets

Posted: 02 Dec 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:agilent tehcnologies? san tester? 1730 series? storage area network? fibre channel?

Agilent Technologies Inc.'s design and validation unit has begun fielding equipment to test SAN systems. The company is promoting its 1730 series platform as one of the first for switched-fabric applications, although Jean-Manuel Dassonville, Agilent's SAN tester product manager, was careful to emphasize that the 1730 is not a WAN tester.

While SAN routing will appear to have traffic patterns similar to those of the Internet, the 1730 series test platform maps network activity using Fibre Channel packet protocols rather than Internet protocols, Dassonville said. "Internet traffic typically moves from one storage place to another," he said. "Network storage traffic represents a more complex switch matrix." The test challenge is to create and simulate traffic patterns for up to 1,000 ports, each with several servers and with many hundreds of disk drives.

The addition of a new storage device to the SAN, for example, will force what Dassonville calls "an addition to the phone book." Similarly, a disconnect will also require an "update to the (network) phone book."

Before the 1730's introduction, SAN test solutions were typically developed in-house, using real servers and storage equipment. But this solution is costly, requiring an exponential increase in the number of servers and storage devices to emulate the behavior of a real system, Dassonville said.

High-reliability storage entails redundancy and decentralization of data resources, Dassonville believes. The problem for testers, then, is tracking where the data is going and what happens to it at remote locations. The requirement is to accurately diagnose what happens at the remote corners of the network, whether it be a faulty drive or a poorly segmented data packet.

The test system is built around high-density Fibre Channel SAN test cards that are equipped with their own CPU; a four-slot, 2U-high chassis that can house up to 16 ports of 1Gbps and 2Gbps Fibre Channel cards; and a Windows 2000-based PC. By adding cards and linking chassis, the test unit can be scaled to exercise an exponentially larger number of SAN devices with simulated traffic patterns and data.

The 1730 SAN test system generates Fibre Channel traffic at wire speeds of 1Gbps or 2Gbps. A parametric-control panel allows users to effect any combination of data, error, link, fabric control, and fabric server traffic. The tester can inject errors, said Dassonville; it can also simulate "out-of-range" performance.

Pricing for the Agilent 1730 series tester starts at $24,000 for a unit with four-port Fibre Channel SAN test cards.

- Stephan Ohr

EE Times

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