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NetApp loses voting rights in storage standards group

Network Appliance has lost its right to vote on standards within the T11 technical committee due to the departure of a key employee.

In a strange turn of events, network-attached storage maker Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp), Sunnyvale, Calif., has lost its voting rights in the T11 technical committee, the major working group for storage standards, has learned.

According to a Network Appliance spokesperson, the key employee who attended InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) meetings as the company's representative left NetApp, and the company has not yet hired a replacement. The employee's departure resulted in an attendance infraction. INCITS rules specify that missing two meetings in a row rescinds voting rights. NetApp said it remains on the board of INCITS and involved in the T10, T11 and T13 committees, but not as a voting member.

The Technical Committee T11, which operates within the INCITS, has been producing device level interface standards for high-performance and mass storage applications since the 1970s. T11's program of work includes two current standards development projects: Fibre Channel and storage network management.

"The way we see the market and various technologies, the Fibre Channel standard is already quite well defined, interoperability is less of an issue, and NetApp cannot add significantly to committee discussions of a maturing technology," said NetApp spokesperson Eric Brown.

NetApp said with its engineering teams heavily involved in upcoming product launches, the preparation for an expected acquisition of Spinnaker Networks in January and the INCITS board member's departure, it has focused its engineering efforts in other areas of "more critical importance to the company."

Tony Aiello, NetApp's technical director of storage software development, said his company's commitment to open protocols has been evidenced by its inclusion in the NFS standards body and the ratification of the iSCSI standard. But, Aiello said, NetApp's active participation in T11 is not necessary at this time.

"We've actively participated in the T11 at times when it is necessary. However, at this time, though we closely monitor the progress of T11 we don't feel compelled to participate in voting sessions," Aiello said. "Should there be a need to raise our level of involvement again we are certainly prepared to do so."

NetApp's departure from T11 has left some experts stunned. "I am amazed," said Arun Taneja, founder and senior analyst, the Taneja Group. "NetApp is a technically astute company that has demonstrated leadership in technology for years. Their products have been based on standards by definition. NAS means NFS and CIFS and both are standards. I don't get it."

The most recent addition to the T11 committee's to-do list was the Storage Networking Industry Association's Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S). Last week, the INCITS agreed to take SMI-S, which helps storage products from different vendors function together under one manageable interface, through the INCITS Fast Track process.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail: Kevin Komiega, News Editor

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