EMC Joins Brocade in Push for Storage Virtualization Technology

Vendors sign deal to put EMC's storage management software on SAN switches

EMC Corp. last week said it plans to develop storage management software for a new line of Brocade Communications Systems Inc. switches that support network-based storage virtualization.

EMC is the second major storage vendor to embrace the SilkWorm Fabric Application Platform switch technology, which San Jose-based Brocade obtained as part of its January acquisition of Rhapsody Networks Inc. Brocade and Hewlett-Packard Co. announced a similar agreement in January .

IT managers will be able to use the switches, which Brocade plans to sell through storage vendors like HP and EMC, to manage the devices on multivendor storage-area networks (SAN) as if they were a single entity, a process known as virtualization.

Brocade, the largest maker of SAN switches, acknowledged that the new hardware won't be of any practical use until at least the end of this year, when HP, EMC and a group of seven smaller vendors are due to start making their storage management applications available on the devices.

But some IT managers are already saying that intelligent switches like Brocade's are a step in the right direction.

Mark Deck, director of infrastructure technology at National Medical Health Card Systems Inc., a medical benefits management company in Port Washington, N.Y., plans to use HP's VersaStor storage virtualization software to help manage his 5.6TB SAN.

But Deck said he has run into an I/O bottleneck between HP's Continuous Access Storage Appliance and its higher-speed Surestore xp256 disk array. Once HP puts VersaStor on Brocade's switches, Deck said, he should be able to use the SAN's full 1Gbit/sec. bandwidth to transfer data between the different storage devices, thereby eliminating the bottleneck.

Bob Siravo, manager of enterprise storage at drug maker Wyeth in Madison, N.J., is rolling out the latest version of EMC's ControlCenter software to help manage a 50TB SAN that includes HP and EMC arrays. Siravo said he thinks the SAN is where storage management intelligence belongs, because it would let him divvy up storage capacity like an energy utility distributes electricity.

But the Brocade/EMC announcement won't preclude Siravo from installing ControlCenter, on individual disk arrays and servers. Wyeth has "an immediate need to have as much of a common tool to manage the environment as possible," he said.

John Webster, an analyst at Data Mobility Group Inc. in Nashua, N.H., said network-based storage virtualization technology has been available for a couple of years, mainly from start-ups such as DataCore Software Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and FalconStor Software Inc. in Melville, N.Y. But Brocade's entry lends credibility to the technology, he added.

Officials at Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC said the company initially plans to support virtualization, dynamic data routing and data classification capabilities on the Brocade switches.


Brocade's SilkWorm Fabric Application Platform Technology

Users will be able to

Run storage management applications on storage switches instead of individual arrays.

View from a single console the storage capacity on all the arrays and servers tied to a switch.

Set up policy-based management approaches on their SANs.

Manage storage at the logical unit number, providing them with more granular control.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon