Compaq Computer Corp.'s press release on storage was five pages long, followed by four pages of customer and analyst references, a 28-page presentation and a 14-page white paper. But in all that space, the server giant was unable to define what storage products and precise technologies would be forthcoming.
The company's Enterprise Network Storage Architecture, unveiled this week, is a roadmap for storage management, migration to storage-area networks and storage allocation. The core goal of the Compaq architecture is to make storage as readily available as electricity.
Currently, network storage is heavily tied to individual servers with each server owning the storage attached to it. The Compaq architecture will allow storage to be taken from distributed pools, to be drawn on when a server needs more disk or tape space. Storage can even be returned to the pool if it is overallocated. Thus, the Compaq approach distributes storage across the enterprise to where it can be used best.
This vision of storage pools "has been on everyone's really cool, theoretical list for a long time," says Hall Kuff, manager of systems and networking for Tessco Technologies, a wireless products supplier in Hunt Valley, Maryland.
Kuff, who uses Digital StorageWorks on OpenVMS, says, "The average IT site over-subscribes on storage for each system to provide a buffer. This vision takes it one step further, allowing you to have a single, centralized pool of storage."
Several vendors, including Computer Associates, Legato, Veritas and Seagate, have endorsed Compaq's architecture.
EMC, an enterprise storage vendor representing more than 10 percent of the open storage market, has a similar concept called universal data tone. The EMC approach relies on a centralized pool of storage rather than distributed groups, allowing greater manageability.
In addition to distributed storage pooling, Compaq's architecture will include the capability to replicate data across remote locations to increase availability and fault tolerance, and make time available to back up the network. Data on a net in Houston, for instance, may be replicated to a network in Boston. Users at both locations will have access to the data while it is being backed up.
The firm will also combine its storage management products -- Compaq StorageWorks Enterprise Backup Solution, Compaq Insight Manager and the Array Controller Utility -- into a single package over the next five years. Still unnamed, the software package will take on a Web-based Enterprise Management (WBEM) interface by early 2000, which will let management occur from a Web browser. Replication of data between nets will take place before WBEM-enabled storage management is available.