Storage hardware heavyweights McData Corp., Broomfield, Colo., and EMC Corp., Hopkinton, Mass., on Tuesday announced plans for EMC to develop software for McData's upcoming intelligent switch platform.
As a result, EMC will use McData's fabric-based storage virtualization platform, which is composed of a hardware engine, open APIs and a software developer's kit, to develop storage virtualization and data movement applications for McData storage fabrics.
But does it behoove EMC to let storage management functions reside outside of its own arrays? EMC's ultimate motivation for backing intelligent switches might be its own information life cycle management (ILM) strategy.
Nancy Marrone-Hurley, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group Inc., said, "This is important to EMC, because you cannot implement ILM and other intelligent storage solutions without reliable and flexible fabrics. By combining software and hardware, EMC and McData are laying the groundwork for being able to automate all of the processes associated with data protection and migration, which are key elements of ILM processes.
"It takes a great deal of resources from both companies to successfully port the software to the switch; we don't expect that EMC will be making this kind of effort with too many switch vendors."
EMC claims to be focused on developing and placing storage intelligence wherever it makes most sense for customers, but porting its software to McData's intelligent switches may be EMC's way of hedging its bets.
"EMC's best-case scenario is to have all storage management functions occur in the array, but they are realistic," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group, Milford, Mass. "It's much better [for EMC] to have their software run on the switch than Veritas' software."
According to McData, fabric-based storage virtualization simplifies the management of a storage network by isolating physical descriptions of storage, server and network functionality and replacing them with logical designators. The details about the locations of data, the characteristics of storage devices, and the available capacity are masked from the user and presented via applications in a logical, non-restrictive manner, easing storage provisioning tasks and improving overall SAN utilization. In addition to basic virtualization and presentation capabilities, McData says, its intelligent switch platforms will provide a foundation for new services like dynamic routing.
Data Mobility Group founder and analyst John Webster believes that EMC is "giving the market one more public clue as to where it's going with regard to virtualization. Their direction can be summed up in two words: distributed intelligence. However, fabric-based intelligence will clearly play a pivotal role -- hence this announcement of EMC tapping its long-standing OEM switch partner [McData] as a source for fabric-based intelligence."
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