Microsoft introduces storage management software

Microsoft on Thursday announced its own version of storage management software that will allow Windows 2000 servers and .Net servers to communicate with storage arrays across multiple devices supported by more than a dozen leading storage vendors.

Microsoft's Multipath I/O technology will ship as a device development kit to third-party partners such as EMC Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Hewlett-Packard Co., Network Appliance Inc. and Veritas Software Corp. The technology allows more than one physical path to be used to access storage devices, providing improved system reliability and availability via fault tolerance and load balancing of I/O traffic.

It's expected to ship with Windows .Net Server 2003 by the end of this year.

Anders Lofgren, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said that while Microsoft's venture into the storage software market has been expected, it's not unwelcome.

"It should ease integration issues in terms of providing high availability and functionality through multipathing for Windows environments. Anything that can be done to improve in that area is a good thing," Lofgren said.

More than a dozen vendors have committed to developing products that will use Microsoft's Multipath I/O to deliver capabilities such as fail-over, load balancing and interoperability with third-party storage products such as host bus adapters and RAID arrays.

Rakesh Narasimhan, general manager of strategic partnerships at Microsoft, said that partner vendors such as Emulex Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., LSI Logic Storage Systems Inc., NEC Corp. and Network Appliance expose the different behaviors of their hardware through an application programming interface and deliver the I/O software through it.

"It's a standards and interoperability path between them and us. On Windows, we can guarantee a level of service with their products," Narasimhan said.

However, others criticized the software because it works only with Microsoft's platform.

"It's a wonderful start as they try to get into storage big time, but they have some interesting challenges because ... it doesn't address the non-Windows platforms," said Bob Zimmerman, an analyst at Giga. "No one's a true-blue IBM shop or Microsoft shop anymore."

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