Complete SAN Solutions
Providing a complete, end-to-end SAN solution is predicated on many components, including efficient management, standardization of protocols, and the interoperability of products. To date, customers have had to rely on VARs or integrators that can source and pre-stage the requisite boxes and software to build a SAN, or simply buy a preconfigured SAN solution from a major storage provider. Few customers have had the internal resources to select the best of breed products from the marketplace, tailor a SAN to their own specific application requirements, and perform their own interoperability testing and debugging to get the solution to actually work.
Progress on standardization has focused primarily on the SAN transport. The SNIA, FCIA, ANSI, and IETF have been successful in codifying standards and standards-compliance testing for Fibre Channel and IP transport protocols. This is the fruit of many years of work by multiple vendors, spanning the Fibre Channel SANmark certifications of the FCIA, standards compliance programs of the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and standards test suites being developed by the SNIA Interoperability Committee.
Standards development and standards compliance increase the likelihood of interoperability, and therefore the ability to more easily build complete end-to-end storage networks. But increasing the odds of interoperability alone is not sufficient. No customer wants their data center to become a lab for debugging vendor interoperability issues.
The SNIA has made steady if slow progress in advancing interoperability through showcase demonstrations at Storage Networking World and other venues. What the customer does not see at these events, though, is the months-long effort and commitment of resources by vendors behind the scenes to configure, debug, and stabilize the demo solutions. Although the pre-staged configurations may not map directly to a customer’s specific requirements, the interoperability initiatives are teaching vendors themselves what is required to deploy and support real-world, complex multi-vendor installations.
Vendors that are committed to a solutions approach to customers assume the responsibility for validating all the components required to build a complete and operational storage network. This forces cooperation and information sharing between the various hardware and software vendors, proactive testing and verification of products, and most importantly, a concrete understanding of the customer’s actual needs.
Storage networking is inherently complex, and although canned storage consolidation or tape backup packages may be useful as a starting point, customers will always require additional components, features, or software to satisfy their unique business requirements. In an open systems world, providing complete, end-to-end solutions is always a work in progress.