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Specifically, Veritas will provide a special software package consisting of its volume manager, file system, and NAS and SAN appliance software. The switch vendors, including Pirus Networks, Rhapsody Networks, and Troika Networks, will produce a variety of solutions, according to Soderbery. He says these products will offer virtualization capabilities and the ability to handle both file and block-storage traffic.

Dave Stevens, the vice president of business development for Rhapsody Networks, one of the participants in the Veritas-powered program, is much more involved than just being an OEM for Veritas software. "The Veritas-powered program is taking Veritas source code, and modifying and embedding it into a hardware platform," says Stevens. He adds that his company will produce unique, high performance products for the SAN infrastructure with the embedded Veritas code.

The gatekeepers
Before being accepted in the SAN marketplace, the intelligent storage switch, no matter what form it ultimately takes, will have to pass muster with the storage array vendors. Practically speaking, this acceptance must come from EMC and Hitachi Data Systems. According to James Rothnie, senior vice president and chief technical officer at EMC, the intelligent storage network, particularly one that features multiprotocol capability, has a definite place in EMC's vision of the future SAN.

Presently, EMC has a lot of intelligence in the storage

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array controller, but the advent of the intelligent storage switch may mean that the company will put some of the intelligence currently residing in the array controller on the intelligent switch, says Rothnie. "It's possible that some aspects of what we do now in our management area will find a home in these switches; for example, there are functions involved in redirecting I/O in some circumstances that might be effectively done in the [intelligent] switch." However, Rothnie is quick to add that "most of what we do in storage management is not best done in the switch; it's best done either on the server or on the storage system itself."

Rothnie also says that SAN switch vendors can learn a lot from IP networking vendors. In particular, he contends that the history of IP networking proves that "the most successful products have been those that have focused on very high-speed capability because that [capability] allows the switches to maximize the ports that they can handle." Rothnie maintains that taking this same approach with SAN intelligent switches will "minimize costs for users, while delivering good performance."

Like EMC, Hitachi Data Systems is a powerful force in the storage networking market. It has come on strong in the last year through OEM agreements with Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard and through the introduction of new storage array technology. Also, like EMC, Hitachi has been providing intelligence in its storage array controller for some time. But, according to Hu Yoshida, vice president and chief technology officer for Hitachi, the company welcomes the intelligent storage switch to the world of storage networking.

Yoshida sees one major advantage to intelligent storage. "You have to move up higher in the management chain if you want to manage heterogeneous storage, such as being able to copy between different types of storage arrays. That's where I see the main value of the intelligent switch," he says.

The storage intelligent switch will have a significant impact on storage networking. Combined with virtualization, it seems that it will finally bring about the ability to manage storage in heterogeneous environments. Embedded intelligence will give users an opportunity to avoid vendor lock-in. And the apparent buy-in to the concept by some of the influential storage array vendors will hasten their acceptance of the intelligent switch.

Furthermore, over the long haul, these switches will probably lower storage management costs by automating many of the storage management tasks within SAN and NAS environments. But, keep in mind that the intelligent storage switch is still in the developmental stage and a tremendous amount of work needs to be done before the vision becomes reality. Most of the announcements currently being made pertain to vendors' visions of what they think the network will look like in two or three years. It will be 2004 or 2005 before vendors will be able to deliver substantive implementations of features such as QoS, policy management of block and file data and advanced security. In the short term, though, users can look forward to switch-based virtualization, more applications executing on the switch, and improved security.

This was first published in June 2002

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