True Integration � Fact or Fiction?

SANs are faster and more reliable than ever before, but the promises of true integration remain just that, mere promises. Has storage technology reached the point where true integration is even achievable?
Posted November 26, 2003

Leslie Wood

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Well, two things are true when it comes to integration. SANs are faster and more reliable than ever before, and enterprises are finding more and more ‘sound’ reasons to integrate their SANs. But integration can be a difficult undertaking, with several critical challenges associated with the process — all of which can be frustrating for both the business side and the technology side of operations.

Some industry experts feel that the issue is further exasperated by the claims of some storage vendors that only they can offer the functionality needed in terms of unifying the administration of multiple SANs into one console as well as integrating the storage resources between the SANs. In other words, some vendors boast that they alone have found the Holy Grail of enterprise storage: true integration.

True Integration Equals Industry Standards

Quite a few storage industry experts, on the other hand, believe that true integration will never be achievable by any one vendor. Wayne Lam, vice president at FalconStor, says that while several vendors have tried to create true integration, none of these efforts has been successful. Lam believes common standards are needed for true integration and that it will take an industry organization such as SNIA, FCIA, etc. to come up with a standard like CIM (Common Information Model) and create a common platform for storage vendors to integrate and build on.

“The challenge and issue with true integration is that not all storage vendors stick to the standard and instead sometimes implement their conforming solution in a way that may cause other compatibility issues,” he says. These issues have to be resolved before something can truly become a standard. However, Lam does offer up a brighter side in pointing out that at least the CIM initiative gives some hope for integration, since SNIA and CIM can be the common platform used by storage vendors, which when implemented properly gives a possibility for true integration.

Others feel that as an industry, storage vendors are making real progress in this regard. According to Paul Ross, director of storage network marketing at EMC, some vendors are having more success than others. However, he adds, the task becomes much easier when you start with a storage architecture that is modular and that is transport- and protocol-transparent.

Ross believes that the key issue for IT organizations addressing this challenge is implementing a centralized SRM (storage resource management) infrastructure. “The challenge isn’t whether two SANs are physically separate or connected, but rather whether these SANs can be managed as a single resource,” he explains.

Page 2: The Mystery of Integrating Multiple SANs

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