Interoperability within the storage space is not just a concept – it is essential, says EMC.
This is the fifth article in a series of one-to-one interviews with vendors on storage area networks and interoperability.
According to EMC’s general manager for South Asia, Paul Rath, interoperability helps drive down the total cost of ownership as customers do not need to overhaul their entire IT infrastructure to ensure that everything works seamlessly.
Furthermore, it ensures that all components within a customer’s multi-vendor networked storage infrastructure interoperate smoothly when deployed, regardless of application origin, operating system, interconnect, or server.
In EMC’s case, all products when found to be fully compatible within an organization's existing E-Infostructure is awarded an "EMC E-Lab Tested" certification.
According to Rath, EMC has invested over US$2 billion in its special interoperability lab, known as E-Lab, over the past six years to ensure that its storage offerings are interoperable with other vendors’ products. The E-Lab has more than 800 heterogeneous servers running 38 different operating systems connected to more than 1.6 Petabytes of storage.
Recently, EMC announced interoperability at the switch level for its SAN offering, enabling its products can to work with switches from McData and Brocade.
Apart from interoperable hardware, storage management software should also play a key role in delivering “true interoperability”, which will enable interoperability with all existing hardware and software in an organization - allowing businesses to access information regardless of source, format, amount, distance, speed and purpose, says Rath.
Rath points out that the EMC E-Infostructure Developers Program shares internal programming software codes with third-party application developers that enables them to write their software to work in concert with EMC systems and software. Their ControlCenter and ESN Manager are two examples of EMC developed management solutions.
At the application level, EMC provides software developers access to its APIs which is the result of close strategic alliances with some of the leading software and solution companies including SAP, Microsoft, Sybase, Informix, PTC, and Veritas.
EMC’s Paul Rath predicts that over the next few years, more than 80% of the world’s storage systems will be directly connected to some type of storage network and this will include combinations of different types of storage systems, not just Storage Area Networks (SAN) or just Network-Attached Storage (NAS) but both.
Paul stated that EMC is in agreement with the conclusion of a recent white paper from the Clipper Group, SAN versus NAS – The Holy War Not Worth Fighting, where they reported that, “Some vendors propose NAS as a solution to everything, while others propose SAN as a catch all…Force-fitting an application into an ill-suited solution will only create storage management nightmares”.
He paraphrased that “NAS is well suited for environments where you have to share files over a long distance, via LANs, WANs, or the Internet, or environments where you would like to consolidate NT file services.
“SAN uses channel technology and essentially changes the way storage is attached to servers, with the most recent innovation being the Fibre Channel. It is well suited for high transaction environments such as ERP, CRM and databases which represent major portions of the storage market. While SANs provide channel connections, they do not support file sharing.”
In reality, most enterprises today deploy a combination of NAS and SAN depending on their information infrastructure needs driven by the needs of various applications. ISPs, large mail services, Windows NT office environments, finance and banking, software development, telephony and ECAD applications commonly use NAS.
“While it is possible in some cases to use a NAS to do the work of SAN, it is usually more efficient and effective to use the right option. The important point is that information should be the center of the storage network and it needs to be managed, shared and protected as a valuable asset” Paul added.
He went on to say the EMC foresees that as individual solutions, SAN, NAS and Direct-Attached Storage (DAS) will cease to have a forceful impact on businesses, as most companies will require a combination of various types of storage architectures, depending on their IT and information management requirements.
Should companies then outsource their storage needs to third-party management services, Paul Rath replied that he felt that it was definitely an alternative, especially if you are an SME due to the significant upfront costs for mission critical information infrastructure, which many SMEs may not be able to afford.
However, he feels that investing in infrastructure is a competitive advantage. By choosing to outsource, companies free themselves to focus on what they do best and let the service provider worry about not only building and operating complex infrastructure but being up 24x7.