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The heavy hitters in the storage marketplace are getting together to make sure their kit can work together when firms build storage area networks (SANs).

System vendors Compaq, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems and IBM today promised to certify interoperability of heterogeneous SANs built from their kit and linked by fibre channel switches supplied by either Brocade or McData.

The initiative, which is being driven by the Storage Networking Industry Association trade group, also promises improved co-operative support among the six storage vendors, which are founder members of the SNIA's Supported Solutions Forum.

Storage, while profoundly dull, is also deeply lucrative and highly competitive - one industry executive recently described it to us as "the eastern front of the IT industry".

The agreement leaves out notable storage players such as Sun, Dell, StorageTek, HP and Cisco (which recently announced plans to compete in the market). And that's not even mentioning the big Network Attached Storage firms like Network Appliance - and management firms such as Veritas.

That said, interoperability has been an issue in the storage market for years and even the partial untangling of this knotty problem is welcome.

So far the forum has come up with two tested configurations, one using fibre channel switching kit from Brocade and the other products from McData, that allow a variety of servers to access data residing on particular storage kit from Compaq, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems and IBM.

Each storage system and its associated servers are logically partitioned into a vendor-specific data zone. More details about the configurations can be seen here.

Brenda Christiensen, director of the SNIA board of directors, said the Supported Solution Forum hoped to involve more vendors and increase the number the interoperable components and the size of possible configurations.

She also used variations of the adjective "historic" in describing the initiative no less than 10 times.

After listening to the "excitement" and "pleasure" of six vendors about the Supported Solutions Forum they did say something vaguely meaningful when they promised to eliminate "finger pointing" between vendors when issues arise.

We've heard talk of standards in the SAN market, which was described today as being in its adolescence, before and how significant today's announcement is remains to be seen... ®

External links:
Press release: Storage networking industry leaders forge breakthrough interoperability initiative
Storage Networking Industry Association

Related stories:
EMC to chop 1,100 staff
Storage margins to shrink predicts Dell
Cisco enters storage market

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