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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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