Network Appliance Inc. and Compaq Computer Corp. are among a number of companies testing storage technologies that could have an impact on the general IT community.
The technologies being tested, including a file-access method and intercontinental data storage using IP, could impact areas ranging from more software and operating systems to voice and networking products.
For example, progress on file access will permit applications that are more customizable and speedier, said David Dale, industry evangelist at Network Appliance, in Sunnyvale, Calif., and co-chairman of the DAFS Collaborative. The group has spent the past year developing the Direct Access File System and will announce that its specification will be given to the Storage Networking Industry Association for caretaking. The group, which is disbanding, already has handed over the specification to the Internet Engineering Task Force for official approval.
DAFS will let software talk directly to peripheral-resident data files, bypassing parts or all of a servers operating system, Dale said. But developers choosing the optimal total-bypass method will have to change their pre-existing applications.
Anthony Skjellum, founder and president of MPI Software Technology Inc., in Starkville, Miss., said DAFS technology will be valuable for the middleware his company makes, which will debut within a year.
However, there could be catches. "To get scalability, you have to worry about a lot more details than the people who are just doing network-attached systems," he said.
But DAFS-enabled hardware and software must be built with attention to detail. Not doing so could affect security, stability and low-level memory access, Skjellum said. In addition, he said, the specification itself could stand improvements in areas such as fault tolerance, RAID and journaling.
Houston-based Compaq last week said it successfully tested a global IP storage network, linking laboratories in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Sydney, Australia; and Nijmegen, Netherlands, with the help of Computer Network Technology Corp., of Minneapolis.
"We were able to ... use Fibre Channel protocol-over-IP fabric to tunnel the Fibre Channel protocol so that we could extend our SAN [storage area network] across continents," said Roger Archibald, Compaq vice president and general manager of enterprise storage arrays. The test is the first to be intercontinental, Compaq officials said. Another recent test, from startup Nishan Systems Inc., spanned from New Jersey to California but involved more vendors than the Compaq-CNT arrangement.