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Sleeper standard: NDMP
The Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) goes back to at least 1996, and it's mostly being used to help back up network-attached storage (NAS) files. It basically allows backup vendors to use one interface when talking to various disk and tape systems. Essentially, NDMP standardizes the backup-related commands used within storage systems and tape libraries.

Currently in version 4, NDMP is no longer being pushed forward from a technical perspective, but the list of implementors reads like a who's who. Computer Associates, Legato,

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Network Appliance, Veritas and many others have incorporated NDMP into their products or services.

Harald Skardal, who was on the NDMP technical council for three years and works for Network Appliance--the original inventor of NDMP--says the core spec was completed almost two years ago. Version 4 includes the ability to extend the protocol to cover vendors' proprietary software. NetApp, for instance, has been working with two, soon to be three, suppliers to enable those vendors to manage SnapVault backup via NDMP. Says Skardal: "Our motive for doing NDMP was that we didn't want to write backup software ourselves, so we had to figure out some mechanism to allow others to do it."

FAIS
FAIS is a means of standardizing the way that management and other types of storage-related software can talk to intelligent switches. For the immediate future, this standard is the most important to the vendor community. It will allow software suppliers like Veritas Software Corp. to create only one version of any given application that will then be able to run on different storage fabrics and across most of the major manufacturers' switches.

Ultimately, industry watchers expect that FAIS will affect users by resulting in more and different types of smart-switch applications and the ability to mix and match software from different vendors. But that's a couple of years away. FAIS is, at its heart, an application programming interface. So the people working on the standard are spending lots of time discussing how best to represent certain features. These are things that are implemented across different vendors' smart switches, such as programming calls and ways to boost performance by, for example, separating the control path from the data path.

Originally, FAIS started out as a proprietary Brocade Communications Systems protocol called XPath. According to Zulfiqar Qazilbash, co-founder and CSO at iVivity Inc. and a member of the FAIS TWG, the standard hasn't changed all that much since Brocade first offered it to a small group of interested vendors in early 2003.

The group is now "concentrating on the core features, and we've made a lot of headway in terms of what will be in version 1.0," Qazilbash says. "We're at a point where we've gotten 90% consensus and are discussing the last 10%." Both he and Brocade's chief technology officer Jay Kidd expect the first FAIS version to be pretty much agreed on by the end of this year. Then the various votes, feedback loops and other procedural matters should take until mid-2005. By the end of 2005, the first version of FAIS should be a done deal, participants say.

This was first published in October 2004

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