By Dave Simpson
Next week, DataCore Software is expected to introduce SANsymphony, a software-only approach to what analyst firms such as the Gartner Group generally refer to as storage domain managers. DataCore refers to its software, coupled with a Windows NT server, as a Storage Domain Server, while other vendors prefer the term "SAN appliance."
SANsymphony (which is not limited to storage area network, or SAN, environments) runs as layered software on Windows NT platforms. Through virtualization, the software creates a logical storage pool out of heterogeneous storage devices in an "any-to-any" connectivity configuration. The domain manager, servers, and storage are connected via any Fibre Channel topology.
"SANsymphony essentially provides a SAN operating system that enables a virtualized storage environment. In turn, that allows a lot of different functions, such as drag-and-drop server/storage allocation, growing data sets on the fly, mirroring, point-in-time copies, etc.," says Richard Lee, president of Data Storage Technologies, a storage consulting firm in Ridgewood, NJ.
DataCore officials argue that this ap-proach also provides increased security, centralized management, and improved storage network performance. The potential performance improvements are due to software caching in the NT domain server. With a single-port QLogic 2100 host bus adapter (HBA), DataCore claims 4,500 I/Os per second; with eight single-port QLogic 220 adapters, 53,000 I/Os per second. (Other supported HBAs include Agilent, Cambex, Emulex, and JNI).
According to Brownell Chalstrom, VP of marketing at DataCore, SANsymphony's primary benefits are easier multi-vendor integration, reduced operational costs, and simplified storage and server reconfiguration.
The software is expected to compete in varying degrees with products from vendors such as Compaq, Dell (through its acquisition of ConvergeNet), DataDirect Networks, Retrieve, Storage Apps, Tivoli/IBM, and Veritas Software.
The Gartner Group, in Stamford, CT, estimates that storage virtualization will reduce total cost of ownership by 25% by 2003. Gartner divides the storage domain manager product category into symmetric approaches (in which the manager is positioned in the server-storage data path) and asymmetric approaches (where the manager resides outside of the data path).
Pricing for DataCore's SANsymphony was not finalized at press time, but company officials say the software will run about $8,000 for a configuration that includes five host bus adapters and 500GB of capacity. (Pricing depends on a variety of factors, including the number of hosts and total capacity.) DataCore plans to sell primarily through third-party integrators and resellers.