Interoperability push expected at storage conference

At the Storage Networking World Fall 2003 conference, vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. plan to unveil technology that’s designed to support increased interoperability between storage devices.

The conference, which is being held in Orlando, will also feature dozens of user case studies and is expected to draw more than 2,500 attendees. The four-day event is co-sponsored by Computerworld (U.S.) and the Storage Networking Industry Association, a trade group in San Francisco.

Gary Pilafas, senior storage and systems architect at UAL Loyalty Services Inc. in Arlington Heights, Ill., said he expects to see greater integration of products through the Storage Management Interface Specification, a set of application programming interfaces (API) and protocols that let storage management tools control storage devices made by different vendors.

Pilafas uses storage resource management software from CreekPath Systems Inc. in Longmont, Colo., to access detailed information about the storage-area network (SAN) at UAL Loyalty Services, a unit of United Air Lines Inc. that manages its Web site and frequent-flier programs. “Tools like that become more powerful as these companies open up their APIs,” Pilafas said.

San Jose-based Brocade will announce a Fibre Channel-to-Fibre Channel router for connecting separate SANs installed across office campuses. The router will also give systems administrators the ability to configure ports for the iSCSI and Fibre Channel-over-IP protocols, according to Dave Stevens, the company’s vice-president of alliances.

The 16-port device uses Brocade’s proposed Fabric Application Interface specification to act as a translator between SANs so they can share storage and server resources, Stevens said. The router is due in the first half of 2004.

In another integration-related move, HP plans to announce an initiative aimed at ensuring interoperability between Brocade’s storage switches and SAN directors and rival devices made by Cisco Systems Inc. and Broomfield, Colo.-based McData Corp. HP resells products from all three vendors.

Steve Jerman, a storage management architect at HP’s storage software division, said the company is running tests to ensure that its switch partners fully conform to the Fibre Channel standard.

By January, HP plans to release a set of free design rules that will give users a step-by-step guide to the configurations that are needed to achieve interoperability between Brocade and McData switches. Information about Cisco’s devices should be added shortly after that, HP said.

“What happens is a lot of the manufacturers want to put added-value things on their switches,” Jerman said. “We’re getting those companies to follow those standards exactly.”