Users Tell Storage Vendors to Get Along

PALM DESERT, CALIF. (04/21/2000) - Users at a conference here this week griped about storage-area network (SAN) vendors that are unable to work together.

"It's not a lack of standards, it's the lack of consistency and implementation," said Richard Boyle, vice president of technology deployment at The Chase Manhattan Corp.'s Global Private Banking unit in New York. Standards could be created, but they're open to interpretation, and it's the subtle differences that stop interoperability. "No one is saying, ‘I'll be the benchmark for these standards,'" Boyle said.

The two vendor standards groups, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and the Fibre Alliance, "need to stop the infighting and agree to disagree," said Earl McAllen, program manager at Computer Sciences Corp. in El Segundo, California, and former information systems manager at Enron Corp. in Houston. "The blocks are there, but everybody wants to rearrange them."

Information technology managers want standards, and the lack of software completeness and maturity are inhibiting SANs, said Bob Gray, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Massachusetts.

In the Works

The SNIA and the Fibre Alliance, led by Hopkinton, Massachusetts-based EMC Corp., are both working on SAN-related standards, such as global file systems and routing. The Fibre Alliance last summer submitted the management information base (MIB) specification, which will standardize how storage devices will be addressed on the network. Although the SNIA gave its input and MIB is now before the Internet Engineering Task Force, no approval date is known.

But the SAN standards issue may be resolved by an unlikely group - networking companies such as San Jose-based Cisco Systems Inc., according to Lauri Vickers, an analyst at Cahners In-Stat Group in Scottsdale, Arizona. Cisco, which owns the router market, has the IT confidence and the size to force whatever standard it develops down the other vendors' throats, she said.

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