On February 1, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) opened the doors of its new technology center in Colorado Springs. SNIA's center, in the old Digital storage plant, is Compaq's main location for storage technology development work. About 150 of the leading companies in the storage networking world raised $3 million for the facility, which comprises more than 14,000 square feet. In the lab, developers can test their current products with and against one another and help develop the next generation of storage standards.

Remarkably, most of those companies actually came to participate in a number of the technology demonstrations. However SNIA members compete in the market as they sell their products, SNIA is based on the idea that as a group, the member companies can all help to promote storage networking and their own success in that arena. To reach those goals, protocols must be widely accepted, devices must interoperate, and products must be easier for consumers and networking professionals to use.

SNIA's opening offered six demonstration projects:

  • Extended copy. With the extended-copy command set, you can use programs such as Computer Associates' (CA's) ARCserve 2000 (on Windows 2000), Veritas' NetBackup (on Solaris), or Legato NetWorker to specify that you want to do a particular backup. The files are translated into the required blocks and the Storage Area Network (SAN)—using data movers such as ADIC FCR 250, ATTO FibreBridge 3200R, Chaparral FS1310/FS1110/FS2620, Crossroads 4250/4450, Pathlight SAN Gateway, or embedded Spectra Logic—copies the data without server participation. Also known as "serverless or LAN-free backup," this powerful technology will be widely implemented.
  • Host adapter API. The SNIA Fibre Channel Working Group has sponsored a host bus adapter (HBA) API that provides a common interface through which applications can discover and get information about HBAs. Among the companies supporting this project were Adaptec, Agilent Technologies, Emulex, JNI, Qlogic, and Troika.
  • IP storage. The benefits of IP storage include providing global access to data, linking fibre channel SANs, and supporting native IP-based SANs built with your existing network. And eventually, IP storage will provide a new set of storage service models. Among the test beds shown were SCSI over IP (iSCSI) and SAN over WAN using IP, asynchronous transfer mode (ATM), and dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM).
  • Storage service provider (SSP) interoperability. Using a multivendor storage utility infrastructure, SNIA members demonstrated an SSP configuration over wide areas using fiber optic DWDM connectivity. This demo used Network Appliance F840 filers, Brocade switches, Cisco routers, and ATL and Spectra Logic tape drives.
  • Storage networks for everyone. This demo showed how IT staff members can quickly and easily create entry-level to enterprise-level open SANs.
  • Storage network management. Several vendors demonstrated their solutions for centrally managing SANs and reporting about storage and network resources. Compaq, Connex, HighGround, Prisa, Veritas, and Vixel were among the companies that demonstrated management consoles.

Space precludes a full description of these demonstration projects, but you can find more detail about them on the SNIA Web site. Suffice it to say that more than a few engineers were tired but happy after a week in the lab working with multiple storage vendors' systems.

Who wasn't there? Of the big frame vendors—EMC, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Hitachi, and IBM. Their absence might have a lot to do with the nature of the first set of demonstration projects. Those companies have the resources to do on a larger scale much of what SNIA does. And Brocade, which owns about 65 percent of the departmental fibre channel switch market, wasn't part of the switch demonstration.

Finally, some of the technical folks at SNIA are working on a theoretical model of storage networking a la the International Organization for Standards (ISO) Open System Interconnection (OSI) seven-layer cake networking model. This widely described model, although a work in progress, attempts to explain how Network Attached Storage (NAS) and SANs fit together in an overall design, where the layers meet, what the interface issues are, and how different services fit in. SNIA is working with the Fibre Channel Alliance, a group with its own model, to incorporate the two models into one. In a future column, I'll discuss this model in more detail.

All in all, SNIA—which is an army of volunteers—is off to a good start. For many in the storage networking world, seeing so many competitors in a room together fulfills a dream—one that will help them eventually meet everyone's needs.