Q

Making sure your HBAs and switches are supported and certified

We have servers from different vendors, IBM eServer and HP Proliant. All servers are working with their own SCSI storage systems both internal and external and are running MS W2K. Now we are going to introduce a SAN storage system to share it on several IBM or Compaq servers. We are considering two entry-level storage systems:

1. IBM FAStT200
2. HP MSA1000

Both solutions cost almost the same.

My questions are:

1. Is it possible to use HBAs from server's manufacturer (IBM and HP) to connect to the same switches and/or storage?

2. Is it possible to mix Fibre Channel switches from one manufacturer with storage from another (IBM FC switches and HP storage or vice versa considering that IBM and HP servers will both work with selected storage system?


The question should not be whether it works or not, the question should be whether it is "certified" and "supported" by the SAN vendor you choose.

HP and IBM both use the same host bus adapters with their solutions, as they are usually rebranded adapters from one of the big three HBA vendors (Emulex, JNI, QLogic) But there are differences in timings, perhaps some OEM firmware versions and definitely in the drivers used by the host vendor.

The same story is true with the switches, since these are also rebranded versions of either McData or Brocade. The OEM versions sometimes have reduced feature sets. For instance, QuickLoop functions, or ISL trunking may not be included with different OEM versions of a particular switch. The best way to approach this is to make a decision on which vendor you will choose then, buy everything from that vendor. If you choose not to do this, then just make sure that what you do purchase is "supported" by each vendor. The support matrix constantly changes as new microcode and driver versions are introduced, so you may need to check this periodically as time moves forward and before you introduce new versions into your SAN.

Chris

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This was first published in December 2002

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