Vendors don't play well together. Interoperability has always been an obstacle in the implementation of storage area networks (SANs), but it's not the only thing causing confusion around SANs and Fibre Channel technology. Users have to muddle through the muck of choosing the right solution and figuring out how to deploy it, all the while wondering if their choice will be obsolete in three years. Add to the mix a lack of working knowledge of fabrics and you've got a technology that's stopped in its tracks.
"The biggest problem with SAN is the complexity and lack of integration expertise," said Steve Duplessie, senior analyst, The Enterprise Storage Group, Milford, Mass. In fact, the scarcity of storage professionals with the skills to deploy this technology is blamed for slowing the adoption of Fibre Channel.
This need is fueling companies such as Computer Network Technology Corp. (CNT) to offer alternative solutions to SAN implementation. The Minneapolis, Minn.-based company has a new set of SAN services, a vendor-neutral approach to assessing, designing and deploying SANs.
The services begin with a SAN assessment, a vendor-independent assessment of a company's environment, and then work from that point to deploy the best SAN solution for that organization. Once the assessment is complete, CNT says it provides a soup-to-nuts SAN solution, including design, verification, and integration. In addition, CNT offers its SAN Integration Lab, which offers technology from all the leading storage providers to be used in testing.
"What we're really focused on is bringing Fibre Channel to the enterprise," said Gary Johnson, vice president Storage Networking Services for CNT. "We have the know-how to answer questions and ease concerns of those considering a Fibre Channel SAN."
According to Duplessie, CNT provides a full compliment of experience in all the related SAN component parts, meaning they can design and deliver a SAN that works right the first time. "CNT is one of the very few independents with actual experience in the field," he said.
CNT isn't the only player in the game. While several storage vendors offer similar services that are geared toward moving their own storage products, Articulent, Inc., a Hopkinton, Mass.-based company that specializes in backup, takes a vendor-neutral approach similar to CNT's toward helping customers implement SAN. In contrast, CNT is more focused on all of the hardware for SAN.
Duplessie sad that the emergence of these types of offerings is a step in the right direction. "[Analysts] get asked all the time for recommendations and until CNT and Articulent, we had no where to send people except the vendors themselves, who tend to be a tad biased."
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