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The block and file services permit administrators to establish a common pool of storage that can be accessed from the same platform by network-attached storage (NAS) and SAN applications and users. The virtualized file services let users establish up to 12 logical servers, allowing them to consolidate servers in their storage environment. The block services supports storage pooling so that storage administrators can allocate storage logically in a heterogeneous environment.

Perhaps the PSX's most interesting feature is the Secure Virtual Storage Domain (SVSD). The SVSD feature permits administrators to partition the storage infrastructure into multiple domains, much in the same way as administrators in the LAN world can set up virtual LANs (VLANs). Using this feature, storage administrators can set up storage capacity and storage services to match the needs of particular applications and departments within the enterprise. For example, an administrator could up the storage capacity for a high priority application. Similarly, the administrator could limit access to storage capacity and services to some departments, while granting access to others, according to predefined policies.

Other switch vendors have entered the fray as well. Brocade Communication Systems Inc. says it will build a second-generation intelligent storage switch, using its SilkWorm 12000 switch as the foundation. In this next-generation switch, Brocade plans on providing switched-based virtualization

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by adding what it calls "wirespeed mapping capabilities," consisting of ASICs and network processors to the SilkWorm 12000 to accelerate the mapping portion of third-party virtualization software. Additionally, the company plans to add improved security and ASIC-based quality of service (QoS).

In the security area, Brocade will build on its SecureFabric OS, according to Jay Kidd, vice president of marketing. Brocade's QoS initiative gives users the ability to monitor use of the SAN and enforce management policies that prioritize applications. Brocade will also introduce multiprotocol capability in its intelligent switch.

McData, like Brocade, has been highly successful as a vendor of Fibre Channel switches that have been used in the SAN marketplace. According to Brandon Hoff, McData's senior director of product management, the heart of its intelligent switching strategy revolves around fabric virtualization, which Hoff defines as "application-centric storage infrastructure management through self-managing and self-provisioning systems."

Hoff says fabric virtualization will be delivered in three phases: visualization, virtualization and automation. The company recently delivered part of the visualization intelligence in its SAN Navigator management tool. This intelligence consists of discovery capability and policy management of capacity planning tasks. In the virtualization phase, it will provide third-party virtualization to make use of intelligent components of the switch, such as network processors and ASICs. The final phase - automation - will take the form of automated storage management such as automated provisioning of capacity (based on QoS), automated backup and automated hierarchical storage management - all based on a policy management engine. Multiprotocol capability - iSCSI, InfiniBand and so forth - will be added to the McData switches as they come into the mainstream.

Embedded intelligence
One of the major beneficiaries of the SAN intelligent switch may well be Veritas, the largest ISV in the storage management software field. Veritas equates the "intelligence" in these new devices with software - not hardware - according to Rob Soderbery, senior director of strategic relations. "We believe that the intelligence is going to remain in the software. Our strategy is to enable partners ... to take our storage software and embed it in their new architectures," he says. So far, at least six hardware vendors will embed Veritas software in their hardware devices.

This move is quite significant - it frees users from vendor lock-in when those users want to purchase certain software management applications. In the past, some of the best-of-breed storage management software has been proprietary, running only on certain vendors' hardware. If a user wanted to run one of these software packages, they would also have to buy the same vendor's hardware - becoming locked into that vendor.

This was first published in June 2002

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