SNIA's Supported Solutions Forum: Strange bedfellows

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I guess the big news last month was the Storage Networking Industry Association's (SNIA) Supported Solutions Forum (SSF), which purportedly unites six leading vendors and promises an end to finger-pointing blame games (see cover story).

The pact applies primarily to Fibre Channel storage area networks (SANs) and associated interoperability and support problems.

Although I laud the goal, I'm leery of the results. I can't help being extremely skeptical of any initiative that calls for vendors such as EMC and IBM to work together. Likewise with Brocade and McData. (Compaq and Hitachi Data Systems were the other initial participants.)

But what really raised my eyebrow was the exclusivity of the deal. Where was Hewlett-Packard? Sun? Veritas? And even though Brocade and McData may have the lion's share of the Fibre Channel switch market (in terms of revenues), any SAN-related partnership should also include Gadzoox, Inrange, Vixel, and QLogic.

No doubt, the "other" major vendors will join the forum, as will scores of smaller vendors. We're bracing ourselves for the weekly or daily press releases. But as more and more SNIA member companies join the SSF initiative, it will be increasingly difficult to handle the requisite logistics.

Lack of interoperability between products from different vendors is sometimes the result of different interpretations of a standard specification, but just as often, it's the result of vendors adding unique bells and whistles to differentiate their products. That's just healthy competition, and if it results in interoperability problems, well, that's the price you pay in anything but a commodity market.

The ulterior goal behind this initiative was probably to spur end-user adoption of SANs by-ostensibly, at least-eliminating the interoperability problems that have stymied end-user adoption, and it may solve some of those problems. But it doesn't solve another big gating factor to end-user adoption of SANs: high cost. Let's face it: The SSF founding fathers are not exactly the low-cost leaders in the market.

It will be a while until we get end-user feedback on how this initiative actually works. In the meantime, don't hold your breath. And if you're a third-party storage integrator, don't worry: This initiative will not decrease your integration and problem-solving opportunities.

Dave Simpson, Editor-in-Chief

This article was originally published on July 01, 2001