FC switch vendors tackle interoperability
A number of competing Fibre Channel switch vendors are collaborating to accelerate standards for interoperability between switches from different vendors. Participating in the Open Standards Fabric Initiative (OSFI) are Ancor Communications, Brocade Communications Systems, Gadzoox Networks, McData, and Vixel.
Typically, switch-to-switch interoperability is not a major concern for users configuring Fibre Channel storage area networks (SANs) because they tend to standardize on one vendor`s switch to minimize learning curves and decrease management hassles. However, interoperability between different vendors` switches can become a problem in scenarios where, for example, users want to combine two separate fabrics for applications such as backup, or where a merger/acquisition forces fabric consolidation.
Some of the current interoperability problems are caused by an incomplete FC-SW standard, which is defined by the ANSI T11 committee. According to Ed McGlaughlin, director of software at Ancor, the standard falls short in a number of areas, including distributed name services, state change notification, address distribution, and fault-tolerant specs for interfabric linking.
The OSFI group hopes to solve those problems with a final draft specification that is due to the T11 committee for ratification by the end of the year. McGlaughlin expects products based on the spec to roll out in the first quarter of next year.