Network-Based Storage Software to Get Standard

T11.5 is developing a standard for how servers and storage interact with network-based software.

T11.5, the governing body responsible for setting the future of management interfaces for Fibre Channel, is now developing a standard for how servers and storage interact with network-based software.

Such a standard would be useful because of the recent trend among storage vendors to build management software inside storage networking switches directly, or connected to the network through appliances.

"The API should allow them to port their applications between platforms in a straightforward manner," rather than writing different versions for each switch vendor, said Bob Snively, T11 chairman and a principal engineer at Brocade Communications Systems Inc., in San Jose, Calif.

The new specification, expected to be complete by June 2004, is called Fabric Application Interface Standard, Snively said. It will translate for such functionality as destination changes, data replications, semi-automated backup and hierarchical storage management, he said.

Functionality thats not appropriate for being network-based includes RAID configurations, but distribution of data to RAID systems might be useful, as is virtualization, he said. Future increases in storage network bandwidth will help the trend grow, industry experts have said.

Moreover, "I expect that we will see a great deal of cooperation" between Brocade, rival McData Corp., and other switch companies like Cisco Systems Inc., Computer Network Technology Corp. and QLogic Corp., he said.

Potential customers of network-based software largely demand the need for a standard, Snively said. "Customers are encouraging [switch companies] to create a common structure. We were seeing the handwriting on the walls," from software companies and partners as well, that users might not buy the new products unless this happened, he said.

Officials from McData, in Broomfield, Colo., were not available to comment. But the company supports having a new standard; the T11.5 vote was unanimous, officials noted.