Storage giants evolve products toward open systems

Network professionals may be able to more easily mix and match storage products if rivals IBM Corp. and EMC Corp. deliver on promises made last week.

EMC rolled out software that can manage not only its Symmetrix arrays, but also high-end storage from Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Hitachi Ltd. and Storagetek Corp. Although Symmetrix accounts for one in four external storage boxes installed, many EMC customers have other storage they want to manage from the same interface, the company says.

IBM introduced a network-attached storage (NAS) appliance and an IP storage device that lets users route SCSI storage data over Ethernet networks.

Together, EMC and IBM account for almost 40 percent of the storage-area network (SAN) market, according to market research firm IDC, with EMC logging about three-quarters of that slice.

EMC announced that its ESN Manager software can now manage the access and assignment of servers to storage volumes for high-end Compaq Storageworks MA8000, Hitachi Data Systems Freedom 7700 and 9900 and HP SureStore XP256 and XP512 arrays, as well as Storagetek 9840 tape systems.

"One of the problems today is that you have to use independent graphical interfaces to perform an activity such as zoning," says Hemant Kurande, CTO at managed storage provider Storability in Southborough, Mass. Zoning lets virtual private storage networks be assigned to individual servers.

"Some vendors do zoning at the host, at the Fibre Channel [switch] or at storage subsystem level," Kurande says. "ESN lets us make changes everywhere with one interface." Storability has customers that have EMC, Compaq and other storage equipment.

Industry analysts are praising the EMC move.

"As the first enterprise storage management [product to] support multiple open systems vendors, this product will set the bar for other vendors," says Tony Prigmore, an analyst at ESG.

IBM's open systems approach is similar to that of EMC: Make sure its storage works with any number of protocols, products and operating systems.

Its IBM TotalStorage Networked Attached Storage 300G straddles the NAS and SAN markets, much like EMC's Celerra NAS and Highroad software do. Like Celerra, the IBM 300G is headless - it sits ahead of external Fibre Channel storage and routes Microsoft Common Internet File System, Unix Network File System, Novell NetWare Core Protocol, FTP and HTTP data over the network.

To a client workstation or server on the network, the 300G looks like NAS. The 300G connects to IBM's Enterprise Storage Server (commonly called Shark), the IBM Modular Storage Server and IBM 7133. When the 300G is used with Tivoli's SANergy software, data can be routed over either the network or the SAN, whichever is most efficient.

Another IBM product, the TotalStorage IP Storage 200i, provides departments, workgroups and midrange customers with an alternative to expensive, difficult-to-implement Fibre Channel storage. The 200i works over existing 10/100/1000M bps Ethernet networks and uses a server-based software driver to route SCSI data encapsulated in IP packets to the 200i, where the data is unencapsulated for delivery to the storage device.

The 200i is the first storage device on the market to use iSCSI, a protocol draft submitted by IBM and Cisco to the Internet Engineering Task Force.

The 200i is available in two models - a Pentium III Model 100 with 216G bytes of storage capacity and a single RAID channel, and a dual-processor model with more than 1.7 terabytes of data capacity and four RAID channels. Both work on Windows NT/2000 and Linux networks.

Even though users appear to want to use familiar IP networks to transport storage, data is particularly sensitive to errors in sequencing and delivery, traditionally necessitating the use of Fibre Channel security and flow control.

The iSCSI draft proposes using TCP as the mechanism that guarantees appropriate delivery.

A variety of vendors are creating IP storage devices.

Cisco will announce a storage router called the 5420 that uses iSCSI as soon as April. Intel will deliver software drivers for its Ethernet adapters that support iSCSI, sources say. EMC has not announced plans for iSCSI.

ESN Manager starts at US$24,000 and is available now. The IBM 300G starts at $44,000 and will be available in March; the 200i will be available in June starting at $20,000.

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