IBM builds SAN testing labs

Posted on December 01, 1999

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IBM builds SAN testing labs

Heidi Biggar

Tackling the daunting task of testing customers` storage area network (SAN) configurations, IBM is building two large labs in the U.S. and Europe. The facilities engage in performance and stress testing, as well as interoperability testing. The U.S. lab, which opened in August, is based in Gaithersburg, MD, at the company`s 80,000-square-foot National Testing Center.

"The lab is an outgrowth of our business testing efforts," says Timothy Lighter, principal, IBM SAN testing services. "We started out with S/390 platforms and are moving into client-server implementations." The objective is to be able to test large SAN configurations, leveraging the National Testing Center`s extensive resources, explains Duane Dueker, vice president of IBM storage area networking marketing.

With more than 7,000 MIPS of processing power and hundreds of NT, Unix, mainframe, and storage systems from various vendors, the lab is able to test entire SAN setups, including applications, systems, and hardware. Target customers include financial institutions, brokerage houses, and manufacturers.

Due to the relative immaturity of SAN technologies, the lab also routinely tests software and hardware configurations for interoperability and perhaps more importantly to determine support for disk pooling and tape sharing, among other applications. "That`s a lot different than just hooking wires together to make sure each part talks to the other," Lighter explains.

To date, the lab has tested its SAN Data Gateway, Fibre Channel switch, Enterprise Storage Server, Fibre Channel RAID storage server, Netfinity servers, 3494/3575 tape libraries, and virtual tape systems in various configurations with Compaq, Dell, and Sun servers; EMC Symmetrix and Connectrix; and STK libraries.

While much of the lab`s component-level testing has thus far focused on IBM products, IBM plans to bring in products from other vendors, such as Ancor and Crossroads. (On the switch side, IBM partners with Brocade.) In addition to Tivoli, the lab has installed storage management software from Legato and Veritas.

As for initial test findings, Lighter says results have been mixed. Disk sharing between IBM`s Enterprise Storage Server and EMC Symmetrix using IBM switch technology has been positive, as has tape sharing from non-IBM NT platforms to 3575 tape libraries. However, the lab has run into problems trying to hook up a Sun server via the Data Gateway to an Enterprise Storage Server.


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