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Hurrah! Interoperability for SAN switches

Discussion of a new standard implemented by many vendors for SAN interop.

Getting switches from different vendors to work together in a SAN is becoming increasingly important as SANs become larger and topologically more complex. In the last year, a standard for switch interoperability called FC-SW-2 has been developed and is being widely implemented by switch vendors.

FC-SW-2, developed by the T11 committee of the National Committee for Information Technology Standards (NCITS) and the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA), establishes standards for switch-to-switch communications in a SAN at three levels. At the lowest level, Level 1, it deals with link connectivity and configuration, allowing customers to zone their SANs and partition storage based on application requirements. Level 2 covers path selection and routing using a process called "Fabric Shortest Path First" to allow paths to be set up between end devices in multi-switch fabrics. Level 3 specifies management and event handling, allowing storage management software and other programs to view and manage the switches as part of an integrated whole.

FC-SW-2 drew widespread support from vendors even before it was completed and most SAN switch vendors today offer FC-SW-2 compliant switches, including Brocade Communications Systems, McData, Gadzoox Networks and Vixel.

A press release describing the standard is available at:

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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Questions and answers from SAN School Storage area networks (SANs) have the ability to save a company money, hasten backups and help consolidate the data center. But, a SAN is not to be left alone. It's a complex, growing, breathing entity that constantly needs to be tweaked and upgraded.

So what is SAN School? If this is the first time you are asking yourself, "What's a SAN?" -- SAN School is for you. If you are implementing your first SAN and need implementation and migration help -- SAN School is for you. If you are far along in the SAN process and need to extend your SANs or connect SAN islands -- SAN School is for you.

The authors of "Storage Area Networks for dummies", Christopher Poelker and Alex Nikitin, are your SAN School professors. Through 15-minute Webcast lessons, they covered SANs from A to Z, from what a SAN is, to connecting those last nodes for optimal performance. readers sent Chris and Alex received a lot of questions during each SAN School Webcast lesson. Since each lesson only lasted 15 minutes, they weren't able to answer all of your questions. Thanksfully, though, Chris Poelker was kind enough to answer them after each lesson.

The editors of have taken each of your questions and Chris's answers and posted all of them for you here. Also, if you missed any of teh SAN School Webcasts, click here

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