Are SANs really "open"?

Posted on April 01, 1999

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Are SANs really "open"?

Dave Simpson

Editor-in-Chief

The recent explosion of storage area network (SANs) announcements has led to vendors peppering their press releases and customer briefings with the word "open." But are SANs any more open than the more traditional approach of attaching storage directly to host servers?

In one sense, they are: SANs have the potential of decoupling storage purchases from server purchases. As such, you may be more likely to buy your storage from vendors other than your server vendor. This may contribute to increased freedom of choice in choosing storage vendors, but that`s a flimsy definition of "open.``

In another sense, some of the early SAN solutions seem to be mostly proprietary. For example, building a SAN the EMC way requires the use of Symmetrix arrays, which in turn may require scrapping non-EMC arrays (assuming you want that capacity on the SAN) and buying bigger, expensive Symmetrix boxes.

The same goes for SANs from vendors such as Compaq and Dell: they`re skewed toward server/storage systems from those vendors. If you want to build a SAN with Dell, you better have a lot of PowerVault hardware. And most of these solutions are limited in which vendors` host bus adapters, hubs, and switches can be used in the SAN.

Likewise with some of the SAN standards being reviewed by various standards committees. For example, EMC recently spearheaded an initiative for an MIB-level SAN management standard (InfoStor, March 1999, p. 1).

Called FibreAlliance, the initiative includes a lot of key companies in the Fibre Channel camp, but other than EMC and HP (which resells EMC arrays) no RAID vendors are onboard. Unless other RAID vendors join an alliance shepherded by their archenemy, the standard will only work with Symmetrix arrays.

So, SANs may offer a wide range of benefits, but "openness" doesn`t seem to be one of them. With most vendors` SAN solutions, it`s reminiscent of the old Henry Ford adage: You can have any color of automobile, as long as it`s black.

Late last month, IBM and EMC announced a five-year $3 billion extension to its existing technology alliance. The agreement calls for IBM to sell other technologies, including microprocessors and advanced custom chips, to EMC. Currently, IBM supplies high-capacity disk drives to EMC for inclusion into its Symmetrix Enterprise Storage systems. For IBM, this alliance marks the second significant supplier agreement in the last month. Earlier in March, IBM and Dell Computer agreed to a multi-year $16 billion supply pact.

The Clariion storage division of Data General extended its OEM agreement with Bull Information Systems to include Clariion Fibre Channel disk arrays and Navisphere storage management software. The arrays will be integrated with Bull`s Unix and Windows NT servers.

Head manufacturer Read-Rite joins Aweida Venture Partners and Quantum as investors in start-up drive manufacturer Benchmark Tape Systems. Read-Rite is developing a thin-film magneto-resistive tape head for Benchmark`s DLTtape-derivative tape drive.

Veritas Software announced that FirstWatch, its high-availability clustering software, now supports the entire Sun StorEdge product line, including the Sun StorEdge A7000 Intelligent Storage Server.

CommVault Systems and Network Appliance announced an OEM agreement where portions of CommVault`s storage management suite will be integrated with NetApp`s filers. NetApp also recently announced an OEM agreement with Foundry Networks, a Gigabit Ethernet switching, routing and server load-balancing provider. The pact calls for the integration of Foundry`s ServerIron Layer 4 switch and NetApp`s NetCache appliance, which will improve end-user response time and reduce WAN costs.

In March, Quantum launched a North American reseller program called Quantum Access. Encompassing all of its product lines, resellers can log on to a one-stop web site to receive exclusive information, including product information, company news, customer warranty status, Web-based training, biannual seminars and the availability of new sales tools. Resellers can visit the Quantum Access Web site at http://access.quantum.com.

MTI Technology has selected Qlogic to provide Fibre Channel SAN and host connect technol- ogy for its recently announced Gladiator 6700 Fibre Channel RAID arrays. MTI will integrate Qlogic`s ISP2100, a 64-bit PCI-to-Fibre Channel controller chip, which contains an integrated RISC processor and on-chip Fibre Channel transceivers. MTI has also combined with Caldera Systems to integrate its OpenLinux 1.3 into the Gladiator array. MTI also announced plans to invest an undisclosed amount of capital in Caldera.

Legato Systems recently an-nounced that its Legato NetWorker for EMC Symmetrix is available for customers running Oracle databases on HP-UX. Legato also partnered with OTG Software;OTG will integrate its DiskXtender online data storage management product into Legato NetWorker software.

Hewlett-Packard announced its HHBA-5100A and HHBA-5101A Fibre Channel host adapters received compatibility approval from Novell to run on NetWare 4.11.

ATL Products announced that its P3000 Series automated DLTtape library is now qualified to operate with version 4.6 of Intelliguard Software`s BuzTool storage management software.

The series is also qualified to operate with HP OpenView OmniBack II 3.0 in Windows NT and HP-UX environments. The combination of the HP OpenView software and the P3000 help is designed for enterprise-class applications, including backup/restore functions or databases. The solution supports on-line backup capabilities and is optimal for large databases such as Informix, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange, SAP R/3, and Oracle, Sybase.

The P3000 has also qualified for management by Tivoli`s ADSM application.


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