By Lisa Coleman
When developing interoperable storage systems supported by major vendors, the Supported Solutions Forum (SSF) was lacking one thing this past year: end-user input. The SSF hopes to remedy that problem by asking end users to participate in the forum by submitting requests specifying storage networking configurations they wish to implement. The consortium, a branch of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), tests, registers, and supports interoperable storage networking configurations.
"We operated from what we thought we knew about customer requirements in the area of interoperability," explains Warren Smith, SSF marketing chairman. "As a consequence, we developed solutions that may not have hit the mark on what customers had been looking for."
Since its inception in the summer of 2001, the SSF has made available five multi-vendor configurations that were designed using products from its member companies. Today, SSF membership has grown to include 34 companies.
SSF's products, or "registered solutions," comprise systems focusing on multi-vendor storage and software. These systems are fully supported by the member vendors. Typically, storage device warranties are voided if an end user hooks up one vendor's storage to another vendor's device. However, the SSF vendors will support a heterogeneous system if it is part of their registered solutions set since it has performed rigorous testing of all its configurations to ensure interoperability.
One hurdle remains for SSF: These "registered solutions" are not sold as bundled configurations. It is up to the user to purchase the components (if they do not have them) and configure them in their storage area network (SAN). This is one reason the SSF wants system integrators to join its ranks so that they can implement these multi-vendor systems for customers.
"However, these solutions are aimed at customers who already have this equipment. Now they can make it work the way they want it to," explains Phil Mills, SSF chairman.
Despite a lack of system integrator membership, SSF is continuing to create heterogeneous storage systems and will have three more registered "solutions" by year-end.
The first is a midrange configuration with remote mirroring for disaster recovery that includes IBM's FAStT700, MTI's Vivant V400, Veritas software for multi-pathing, and FalconStor software for mirroring on a Brocade fabric.
The second solution is a system for data sharing in a multi-vendor SAN that includes Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sun storage and servers running on either a McData or Brocade fabric. Finally, the third phase of a previously released configuration will be available: the Open SAN supported solution set. In the first two phases, the Open SAN system isolated storage into separate zones. It uses multi-vendor disk storage, tape, and backup/recovery software. In this final phase, all the storage will be pooled and will work in a single zone with shared host bus adapters (HBAs).
In the first quarter of 2003, two other systems will be announced. One is a multi-vendor disk/tape storage system with network-attached storage (NAS) heads—IBM's 300G and HP's E7000. It will also combine storage and software from HP, IBM, McData, and Veritas. The other system is a multi-vendor fabric that will include a Brocade switch that will work with McData, Inrange, and QLogic hardware.
"We have a fairly sophisticated test plan," says Mills. "We can put all of these different switch types together into a single SAN with the different disk and storage vendors."
For more information about SSF, go to www.snia.org/ssf.