Microsoft plans storage management software

Microsoft Corp. last week announced storage management software that will let systems running Windows 2000 Server and Windows .Net Server 2003 communicate with storage arrays across multiple devices supported by more than a dozen leading 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. Microsoft said the technology allows more than one physical path to be used to access storage devices, providing improved system reliability via fault tolerance and load balancing of I/O traffic.

Multipath I/O is due to ship by year’s end with both Windows 2000 and Windows .Net Server 2003, which is scheduled for release then as well.

Anders Lofgren, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said Microsoft’s venture into storage software is a welcome development.

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

More than a dozen vendors have committed to developing products that will use 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, Microsoft said.

Rakesh Narasimhan, general manager of strategic partnerships at Microsoft, said storage vendors that use the technology can 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,” he said.

However, others criticized the software because it works only with Microsoft’s operating systems.

“It’s a wonderful start as they try to get into storage big time, but they have some 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.”