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Interoperability initiatives: Inching their way toward compatibility

searchStorage queried the top executives of the industry's leading storage vendors to see if they could fill us in on what they're doing. Here's what they have to say about the steps they're taking to promote interoperability.

In its quest to determine which vendors are working to make their products compatible with their competitors' products for the sake of the user, the editors at searchStorage queried the top executives of the industry's leading storage vendors to see if they could fill us in on what they're doing. Here's what they have to say about the steps they're taking to promote interoperability.

Compaq Computer Corp.
Mark Lewis
Vice President and General Manager
Enterprise Storage Group

Mark Lewis, VP and GM, Compaq
Compaq has been active in promoting industry standards for years, participating in ANSI committees that define standards and supporting industry organizations that promote standards, such as the Fibre Channel Industry Association and the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA). Compaq is currently engaged in an effort to standardize the programming interface for storage management.

Compaq is committed to industry standards and common interfaces, and will implement them faithfully in our products. To promote interoperability testing and qualification, Compaq recently completed two major initiatives. The first was the construction of the SNIA Technology Center in Colorado Springs. This state-of-the-art, 14,000 square foot facility is open to all SNIA members for interoperability work. Compaq spent nearly $3 million to construct this one-of-a-kind center, and leases it to the SNIA for a nominal fee.

The second initiative was the completion of Compaq's own Network Storage Interoperability Lab. Located near the SNIA Technology Center, this 9500 square foot facility is dedicated to coordinated, cooperative interoperability testing between major storage companies. In July 2000, Compaq and IBM announced combined investments to accelerate open storage networking solutions through interoperability of each company's storage hardware and software. This strategic alliance has already delivered interoperability between Compaq StorageWorks and IBM Enterprise Storage Servers.

Dell Computer Corp.
Russ Holt
Vice President and general manager
Storage Systems Group

Russ Holt, VP and GM, Dell
Dell's PowerVault storage business leverages the direct model to standardize and simplify storage solutions. We are focused on providing customers with reliable, scalable and cost efficient storage solutions that leverage industry-standard technology.

The core of our storage strategy is to deliver storage products and solutions with enterprise capabilities and the best price/performance for Windows, Intel-based server environments. This is driven by continued customer demand for industry-standard storage and rapid growth in these markets. Although customers are driving toward multi-platform interoperability, they remain focused on easy-to-implement, industry-standard solutions that provide investment protection, centralized management and a roadmap for future interoperability.

Today, we provide powerful Windows NT and Windows 2000 SAN storage for the industry's most popular Windows server platforms. We have extensive interoperability labs where we test and qualify our SAN solutions before they reach the customer. And the PowerVault SAN appliance architecture provides a roadmap for future server platform support and interoperability. This architecture will allow for full interoperability while at the same time accommodating quick growth by providing centralized management. Only by embracing this centralized management will customers be able to continue to keep up with the rapid demands of storage growth while pursuing the ideal of SAN interoperability.

Our growing line of PowerVault NAS appliances offer heterogeneous storage consolidation, interoperating with mixed client and operating system platforms out of the box, providing simple, reliable and interoperable storage. For customers that have network storage needs across platforms running multiple different operating systems, our NAS products fit in and interoperate seamlessly.

EMC Corp.
Jim Rothnie
Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Jim Rothnie, Senior VP and CTO
EMC has invested seven years, $2 billion in testing infrastructure and another 1,600 terabytes of EMC and non-EMC storage to deliver the world standard in open interoperability. The commitment is significant, but there is no other way to provide customers the choice and investment protection they demand.

The result of our fanatical commitment to customer satisfaction includes tested interoperability between EMC storage systems and software and 250 server and non-EMC storage systems, 40 operating systems, 145 network elements - switches, DWDM devices, hubs, HBAs, 50 cluster configurations and all the leading databases and enterprise applications.

Further, our commitment includes open software tools and open APIs to optimize multivendor storage networks, leading roles in all relevant standards efforts, dozens of cooperative ?service interoperability? agreements with technology partners, to ensure seamless and rapid response.

Testing on this scale is complex, time-consuming and expensive. But there is no other way to take the guesswork out of storage networking for our customers. Customers require this level of assured interoperability in order to leverage business opportunities and accelerate time to market.

Our commitment to tested interoperability permeates every corner of EMC, from the executive suite to Manufacturing, Sales and Global Services. But the heart of it lies in the ?E-Lab,? where we perform the exhaustive tests needed to ensure bullet-proof interoperability of our solutions ? tests of interoperability, standards compliance, reliability, durability, performance, and much more, all under real-world performance loads. The assured interoperability process can take months of 7x24 testing and working with suppliers to bring solutions up to EMC?s uncompromising standards. Only then does a product receive the E-Lab qualified ?seal of approval.?

Don Kleinschnitz
General Manager, Scalable Network Solutions NSSO

Recognizing the importance of interoperability is precisely what led Hewlett-Packard to launch its Federated Storage Area Management (FSAM) strategy in February. The FSAM vision, and the products that support it, enable customers to scale their storage network through interoperable hardware and supporting software, allowing companies to deal more efficiently with the unpredictable storage demands created by today?s business applications. The technologies that support the FSAM strategy range from large disk arrays to tape devices to management software and services. The result of implementing FSAM is increased storage capacity, higher availability and improved manageability.

Since announcing FSAM, HP and the larger storage industry have seen the creation of SNIA?s ?Supported Solutions Forum,? or SSF. The development of SSF suggests that the industry as a whole is now beginning to follow HP's lead. Vendors, many of whom compete with one another, are coming together to grapple with the problem of interoperability. These are all positive developments, demonstrating the leadership of Hewlett-Packard and the commitment of the industry at large to delivering to customers products and solutions that enable them to most effectively address their storage needs through interoperable technology.

IBM Corp.
Linda Sanford
Senior vice president and group executive
Storage Systems Group

Linda Sanford, Senior VP, IBM
The exponential growth in data has driven storage to the heart of the network, and with it the need for universal access. The market is clearly shifting to open storage networking -- a move that requires solutions based on open standards and interoperable devices from servers, across the SAN fabric, to the storage devices themselves.

In a little over two years, IBM has moved from a high-end disk seller to a complete solutions provider and now has an arsenal of advanced open storage networking systems. All of these steps have been taken with the customer in mind, and all of the roads that IBM is taking in storage lead back to openness and interoperability for the benefit of customers IBM believes the future of storage networking lies in the adoption of open standards and interoperability, and customers are the biggest advocates of our vision.

IBM will continue to deliver best of breed technology, products, and services to ensure our customer's storage networking needs are met not only today, but will stand the test of time in the age of e-business. In fact, it is the driving theme of today's IBM -- from Linux-enabling its entire portfolio of hardware to Java support, IBM is leading the charge for open standards and interoperability.

IBM will continue to play a leading role in technical forums that are developing standards for the storage industry. IBM is forming alliances with business partners, even with competitors, to make sure that those industry standards are met.

Network Storage Solutions
Brad Clemmons

Brad Clemmons, CEO, Network Storage Solu
Network Storage Solutions, Inc., (NSS), an early pioneer of Network Attached Storage (NAS) is taking a leading role in delivering interoperable storage solutions. Our SPANStor based NAS products support concurrent SCSI and Fibre Channel based storage attachment. NSS is working with leading SAN storage vendors to provide network file level interfaces into their block level storage technology.

NSS provides open protocol interfaces to storage at both the hardware and software levels, providing unmatched flexibility in network storage. NSS is committed to driving the convergence of NAS and SAN storage as well as participating in the furtherance of data management interfaces like NDMP through standards organizations like the SNIA.

Network storage systems of the future will present both file and block level interfaces enabling applications to utilize the interface that best suits the application needs. The consolidation of storage resources into systems presenting ever-larger capacities requires that these systems present multiple standards-based high-speed interfaces or data bottlenecks will arise.

Our initiatives for storage interoperability are focused on IP networking, as we believe networks hold the most promise for open hi-speed data access. The future for interoperability between systems and vendors is based on open, published interoperability standards, not proprietary extensions. For the storage industry to continue to flourish vendors must continue to work together in establishing standards for connectivity, management, backup and recovery and data delivery.

Nishan Systems
Aamer Latif
President and CEO

Aamer Latif, President and CEO, Nishan S
Until February of this year, when we introduced our family of IP storage switches, it had been impossible to build interoperable Storage Area Networks (SANs). This was an obstacle that the Fibre Channel SAN switch vendors could not overcome. In contrast, as an open systems alternative to the complex and incompatible Fibre Channel switches, our products interoperate with products from all leading switch and router vendors, including Cisco Systems, Extreme Networks, Foundry Networks, Juniper Networks, ONI Systems, Nortel Networks, Riverstone Networks, and Sycamore Networks.

We also designed our IP storage switches to support, with no changes whatsoever, existing Fibre Channel and SCSI end systems. Imation Labs verified that, in a recent announcement of the results of their comprehensive interoperability testing. By using Nishan IP storage switches, rather than conventional Fibre Channel switches, our customers enjoy proven interoperability - not just with their Fibre Channel and SCSI end systems, but also with their data center core switches, metro area networks, and wide area networks, in which Gigabit Ethernet and IP are used.

Nishan and the IP storage community are collaborating on new standards, such as iSCSI, to support native IP storage end systems. Our IP storage switches feature these new standards, so customers have the option of gradually converting from Fibre Channel and SCSI to native IP storage starting now or in a year or two, when the standards are proven and stable.

Finally, all of our switches can be managed by the leading standard SNMP platforms, including Tivoli/IBM NetView, HP OpenView, and CA Unicenter.

Quantum Corp.
Michael Brown

Michael Brown, Quantum Corp.
At the workgroup level, Quantum's Snap Servers from Snap Appliances and our LANvault from Quantum|ATL set a high standard for interoperability. The Snap Server is a family of network attached storage (NAS) appliances providing a wide range of storage capacities with easy installation and integration into existing networks. Snap Servers connect to all client protocols, including Windows NT, NetWare, UNIX, Linux and Macintosh. LANvault is an integrated solution for remote site backup that incorporates a backup appliance, a central management console and a revolutionary customer service web portal. LANvault can interoperate with multiple systems and represents a new category of appliance-based, centrally-managed data protection systems that are dramatically easier to deploy and easy-to-use.

At the enterprise level, Quantum ATL's solutions offer interoperability among Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and SCSI. Quantum ATL was also a co-founder of the Open Storage Networking (OSN) Initiative with Network Appliance, VERITAS, Cisco Systems and others. This alliance was formed to promote interoperability through the development, sale and support of enterprise-class integrated storage solutions. The OSN initiative is dedicated to an open systems solution for storage networks, making it possible for IT decision makers to build interoperable networks with the offerings of different vendors.

Patrick Martin

Patrick Martin, CEO, StorageTek
StorageTek works closely and actively with the other major server storage and connectivity vendors to make sure our solutions work together. Extensive testing in our many labs document and guarantee this interoperability. One proof point is our line of automated tape libraries that support tape drives from many vendors, and connect to every major computing platform via ESCON, SCSI and Fibre Channel.

But StorageTek is committed to going beyond these necessary but conventional efforts. Today's environments require global storage solutions that work across heterogeneous host platforms, storage devices and applications, and continue to work across years of change and growth.

We believe that to achieve this requires storage virtualization, both in the storage device and in the storage network. Virtualization separates physical storage from the presentation of storage in a way that simplifies management, enables communication between different devices and standards and seamlessly adapts to innovation over time.

Our product line clearly illustrates our commitment to storage virtualization, with virtual tape, disk and storage networking products. The StorageNet 6000 series of storage domain managers, for example, uses network-based virtualization to enable Unix and NT hosts and applications to share multiple storage devices that appear directly attached to each host.

While interoperability is a difficult challenge, we believe that the combination of industry cooperation and product innovation can provide the flexible, reliable and scalable heterogeneous solutions that our customers require.

Sun Network Storage
Randy Rettberg
Chief Technology Officer

Randy Rettberg, CTO, Sun Microsystems
When facing the challenges presented by "interoperability," you really need to define whether your goal is to implement "open" solutions and/or to implement "heterogeneous" solutions. "Open," in its purest form, refers to solutions that are based on industry standards and have openly specified APIs. This is a distinct advantage to the end-user because it means that third parties can develop solutions that integrate with the open solution, which ultimately means more choice and improved reliability. With the storage industry, "open" is also used to refer to solutions that work in both UNIX and NT environments. "Heterogeneous" solutions are solutions that work in more than one OS environment. This is why "open" and "heterogeneous" are often used interchangeably, when they are really two distinct things.

Sun has always been a proponent of implementing open standards and APIs, and was one of the leading companies in the development of Jiro technology. Jiro technology was developed through an industry-wide initiative and is based on the Java 2 platform. It is an open, freely available set of APIs that helps provide developers with an infrastructure for building integratable, end-to-end storage management solutions that help turn complex distributed environments into easily managed, scalable networks. By enabling interoperability between any server, any switch and any storage, Jiro technology provides developers with an open environment for building integrated and automated storage management solutions. There is real momentum around adoption of Jiro technology, as evidenced as evidenced most recently with development by companies including VERITAS Software, BMC Software, Brocade, StorageTek, Crossroads Systems, QLogic and others.

Veritas Software
Robin Purohit
Vice President product management, Availability Products

Robin Purohit, VP product management
After delivering heterogeneous data availability software solutions for more than ten years, Veritas Software has forged working partnerships with every major server, storage, and infrastructure vendor in the industry. Veritas' partnerships and hardware-agnostic approach have allowed the company to test its wide range of solutions, including storage virtualization, SAN management, data protection, and high availability, across multi-vendor configurations, as well as both UNIX and Windows platforms. In fact, the Veritas Integration Lab has generated more than 100 "known good" SAN configurations in the past two years alone, and plays a significant role in the Veritas/Oracle/Sun (VOS) alliance, which has been deploying pre-tested solutions from the three vendors since last year. Veritas Cluster Server, the company's premier application availability solution, has been successfully tested with more 3rd party storage devices than any other clustering

It's from this neutral space that Veritas not only performs enterprise-class interoperability testing, but also develops breakthrough technology that enables our customers to deploy solutions across complex environments. For instance, the Veritas V3 SAN Virtualization Initiative introduced in 1999 defined the technologies necessary for customers to take full advantage of new SAN device capabilities across multiple platforms. In fact, from the V3 initiative emerged VERITAS SANPoint Control, the industry's leading the company's heterogeneous SAN management application. In addition, the Veritas Vertex Initiative has offered a series of advanced data protection software solutions designed to work with the widest possible range of hardware and software backup solutions.

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