McData Breaks Into Storage Network Management

By Heidi Biggar

McData recently expanded into the emerging storage network management arena with the launch of its Enterprise Solutions Architecture. The software platform, which focuses on the storage network itself, not the overall storage environment, integrates with upper-level management software such as EMC's Control Center and Veritas' SANPoint Control to give users a detailed, yet 'generic,' look at their storage fabrics ()e.g., hubs, switches, wiring, etc.).

"Our approach is fundamentally different from those of the big players, such as Computer Associates, EMC and Veritas," says Peter Dougherty, director of strategic marketing at McData. "We're 'virtualizing' the storage network or fabric, and they're 'virtualizing' the storage."

Presenting the storage network as a generalized set of services to upper-level applications has several key benefits, according to Dougherty. "The application doesn't have to worry about which wires data goes through, it just tells us what it wants and our architecture provides the appropriate level of service, reliability, and performance." For end users, this could mean easier configuration and management, more efficient troubleshooting and diagnostics, and automated discovery of fabric components, he claims.

While there is some redundancy between the two software layers at this time, Dougherty says that the road map for the McData platform calls for a variety of advanced fabric management features that will clearly differentiate the two product types in the future. Planned capabilities include trend analysis, advanced security, advanced performance management, multi-protocol management, and multi-vendor management.

In addition to supporting upper-layer enterprise management and storage management applications, McData says it will partner with independent software vendors (ISVs) for additional functionality (e.g., asset management and charge-back applications) with the goal of providing tools that manage the entire storage network, including new protocols and next-generation applications.

The so-called "brains" of the architecture is the Enterprise Operating System (E/OS), firmware that supports the fabric operation and enables advanced functions. The Enterprise Fabric Connectivity Manager (EFCM) provides the broad management support, enabling integration into the upper management layer and with third-party software products and among non-McData switches. The architecture supports industry-standard APIs and the SNMP MIB," explains Dougherty, "which means we can zone across interoperable fabric switches from other vendors as long as they comply with these standards."

The architecture currently works in Fibre Channel environments; support for FCIP, iSCSI, and InfiniBand is expected in 18 to 24 months. Both products (E/OS and EFCM) are currently available. EFCM is offered bundled with a McData director switch or can be purchased separately.

This article was originally published on August 22, 2001