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Controller spec means cheaper disk arrays

But it's all a Dell plot, say high-end rivals.

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The Storage Bridge Bay (SBB) working group (www.sbbwg.org) is to release version one of the SBB spec next week. This defines standard electromechanics for the controller modules that go into stuff such as disk arrays.

In theory at least, it means that you could build an array from different manufacturers' electronics, much like you'd build a PC using PCI cards from whoever.

The spec defines a slot-in canister with hot-plug connectors and saves disk array builders from having to reinvent the wheel, according to Matthew Brisse, a technology strategist from Dell who has been involved in its creation.

SBB modules could be obvious things like SAS, SATA or Fibre Channel controllers for disk arrays, or something more complex such as a Virtual Tape Library module, an iSCSI target, or a RAID controller. You could even have several different modules in the same array, easily upgrade an array with a new controller, or have a reprogrammable module that you download applications to as needed, Brisse said.

Given its interest in commodity storage, it's no surprise to find that Dell is a prime mover behind SBB, along with EMC, Intel, and LSI Logic. A couple of dozen others are also signed, including storage controller companies Adaptec, AMCC and Emulex, and disk array builders EMC, Infortrend, NetApp and Xyratex.

There's a lot of companies not on the list, and although they won't say so on the record, it's clear that at best they see the standard as only of interest to commodity storage vendors (hello Dell...), and at worst as a plot to squeeze the component suppliers until their pips squeak.

"Whenever Dell comes up with a good idea, I'm suspicious," said the marketing director of one high-end disk array maker that's not in the SBB. "This helps Dell cut costs and put pressure on its suppliers, but it helps me how?"

"SBB has three goals - to increase choice, decrease cost, and improve interoperability," said Brisse. "Standard building blocks will allow array builders to invest more in software and solution - that's where the real value is." ®

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