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FibreAlliance nears 50 members

The FibreAlliance, an industry consortium sponsored by Hopkinton, Mass-based EMC Corp., and formed in February of 1999, has added six new members to its roster. With the goal of developing common standards for managing heterogeneous storage area networks (SANs), the FA has added six Fibre Channel suppliers to its ranks, bringing the total number of members to 49.

Thus far, the FibreAlliance (FA) has produced an engineering specification for building interoperable SAN management capabilities based on a management information base, or MIB. According to the FA, the MIB is a group of parameters, or variables, whose values define and describe the status of a network and its components. The MIB enables users to collect and display SAN device information and launch each device's management tools, such as configuration and control utilities.

In order to gain some insight into the FA's direction and how they managed to get the MIB out in just over a year, SearchStorage spoke with Don Swatik, vice president of strategic planning for EMC Corp.

SearchStorage:What does the FibreAlliance do that differs from the work of other standards bodies like the SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association), FCIA (Fibre Channel Industry Association), and SPC (Storage Performance Council)?

Swatik:"The key differentiator is our time-to-market. When the FA was created there was a realization by the 11 charter members that the existing way of getting to standards took too long. Time is a very, very key criterion to developing standards. The difference is, that in parallel to submitting the standard [to the standards group] for review we begin to develop products around it and get them to market."

SearchStorage:What has the FA been working on? What's on tap for future standards work?

Swatik:"Up to now we've been concentrating on the MIB. We saw that without the MIB, there was a crisis brewing. Part of the reason for our success has been that we have had a singular focus with the MIB. That's a good question. As of now we don't know what direction the FA will go as far as round two."

SearchStorage:Is there any infighting or difference of opinion between members in regards to the direction that the FA takes? More specifically, why did a group of switch vendors, that are also members of the FA, form the Open Systems Fibre Initiative (OSFI)?

Swatik:"This is a common misconception. The members of the OSFI are still members of the FA. There haven't been any defections. Brocade joined the FA after they were already a member of the OSFI. The OSFI is working on a totally different issue in the Fibre Channel space."

SearchStorage:What prompted the latest members to join the FA?

Swatik:"We have constant requests for membership information. There's a lot of interest. It's mostly due to the fact that people are seeing demonstrated results from the FA. The other bodies are too slow. How many new standards have made it as far as the MIB? The FA has been the benchmark for getting people together and cooperating and people recognize that."

Newly joined members of the FibreAlliance include: Adaptec, Inc., of Milpitas, Calif.; ArtStor AG, of Hamburg, Germany; Connex, of San Jose, Calif.; Nexsan Technologies, Ltd., of Derby, England; ProactiveNet, Inc., of Alviso, Calif.; Spectra Logic Corp., of Boulder, Colo.

The FA said that with a goal of kick-starting the implementation of interoperable SAN management, 11 FibreAlliance members currently are shipping products that employ the MIB.

The FibreAlliance has demonstrated heterogeneous SAN management interoperability at several major industry events, including multiple NetWorld+Interop shows and Storage Networking World, the industry conference sponsored by SNIA.

According to Swatik, the MIB is nearly complete. The FibreAlliance has submitted the results of its work to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the governing body authorized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for SNMP-based MIB standards.

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