By William Fellows
EMC Corp’s Fibre Channel storage strategy passed another milestone yesterday when the company launched its long-awaited FC switch as the 32-port Connectrix. Developed for EMC by its 80%- owned McData operation, EMC claims that Connectrix improves upon other FC switches marketed by the likes of Brocade and Vixel, not only because at 32 100Mbps FC ports it offers twice as many connections as the competition but also because every system components is replicated to eliminate all single points of failure. Its heritage is also rooted in mainframe ESCON technology, EMC notes. Initially only EMC’s own Symmetrix storage is supported but EMC says that the vendors in its FibreAlliance have all pledged to deliver interoperable products – some beginning next quarter – which use a MIB being created that supports EMC’s FC work. EMC claims to have 24 more FibreAlliance partners in addition to the 13 previously announced including significant other players it declined to name. By naming the IETF as the standards body to which it would submit the FibreAlliance specification, EMC appeared to have snubbed the storage industry’s own Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA). However, EMC told ComputerWire that it is in daily contact with SNIA and fully expects SNIA to make its own forthcoming FC standards work compatible with the FibreAlliance MIB. It doesn’t know how the MIB might be supported by rival Sun Microsystems Inc’s StoreX Java-based storage management APIs. EMC said all Sun could muster to describe StoreX at the recent industry I/O gathering in Monterey was that StoreX would be a framework for storage management. What EMC is not doing with this latest announcement is going the whole nine yards with FC, at least not just yet. EMC only supports Fibre Channel at the front end (controller to server). It doesn’t offer the back-end (controller to drives) connections as other storage vendors do. It says won’t be selling arrays with Fibre Channel disk drives for around a year because they are still too expensive and too unreliable. Moreover, it doesn’t think customers care what the interface between the controller and the disk are and doesn’t think Fibre Channel is ready for the back end yet. A Connectrix Management Software Suite provides drill down views of data and management of Connectrix Enterprise Directors via a manager that integrates with CA Unicenter, Tivoli and HP OpenView, while a product manager monitors each director. The Symmetrix and Connectrix management software will be integrated by year-end. Connectrix subsystems and software support mixed IBM, Compaq, Dell and HP NT and Sun Unix server environments. EMC’s added 36Gb drives to its Symmetrix storage line that can now be configured with 93.Tb in a single cabinet. The fabled EMC microcode has been enhanced so that up to 4,096 logical volumes can be addressed on Symmetrix servers, up from 1,024 now. EMC says 36Gb and 18Gb drives can be mixed and matched in the Symmetrix 5000 mainframe and 3000 Unix and NT systems. EMC says its PowerPath software now provides load balancing and path failover support for Unix and NT clusters – it supported only single systems previously. Its InfoMover software that enables data to be shared between different servers now supports Windows NT. EMC expects to be a $10bn company by 2001. By that time or soon after it expects most of its business to be derived from NT – where it claims most data already lives in any case – which is why it is investing so heavily in developing support for NT alongside Unix in its products.