Storage rivals to cooperate

Storage rivals to cooperate

An ambitious effort from the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) will help eliminate the blame game when troubleshooting mixed-vendor SANs (storage area networks).

The effort, called the Supported Solutions Forum, requires participating storage vendors to take service calls and initiate repair orders for SAN customers even if the problem resides in another vendor's equipment.

Brocade Communications Systems, Compaq Computer, EMC, Hitachi, IBM, and McData make up the founding members of the SNIA forum, according to Brenda Christensen, a member of the SNIA board of directors. Hewlett-Packard, Veritas Software, and others have said that they will join soon.

Popularised by the growing storage demands of many companies, SANs have traditionally been complex mixed-vendor network systems that were difficult to manage. Vendor accountability from problems related to mixed-vendor system interoperability has been less than stellar.

"[The Supported Solutions Forum is] a closing of the book on vendors who no longer will cooperate or agree to work together," Christensen said.

The founding member companies will offer SAN customers a variety of tested, heterogeneous SAN configurations running their individual storage system products from a single, shared Fibre Channel connection, Christensen said.

Adding cooperation to interoperability, participating companies sign a cooperative support agreement which requires each of them to assist customers in resolving SAN problems regardless of whether or not the problem lies in their product.

SAN customers having problems with their storage networks will no longer have to know which component of their heterogeneous SAN is causing the problem. Instead, SAN customers using a SAN configured through the SNIA forum will contact any of the six vendors and have the problem taken care of on first call.

Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group, believes the SNIA forum is the program SAN customers have been waiting for.

"This is not a paper tiger," Duplessie said. "What [SAN] customers have wanted as much as interoperability is accountability. [With the SNIA forum] any vendor they call, even if it's not that vendor's product, will have to take action. They may not be stuck with the fix, but they have to take action."

Duplessie said the founding members of the SNIA forum were already "the major interoperability vendors" among storage companies. He said the noticeable absence of companies such as HP and Sun was a result of closed-storage practices by those companies. "The reason Sun and HP are not here is they are used to providing storage for their own [platforms] and are not ready for this," Duplessie said.

HP officials disagree. "I welcome the service part of this, and as soon as we understand what it means and what it contains, we will participate. There's no doubt in my mind HP will participate," said Don Kleinschnitz, HP general manager of scalable network storage organisation.

Experts say Sun's flavour of arbitrated loop Fibre Channel technology prevented it from being part of the founding SNIA forum group, which uses a different method called switched Fibre Channel technology. But Sun is already working with SNIA members on similar initiatives.

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