Finding Interoperability in Early SAS Solutions

Author: Linus Wong, Director Strategic Marketing

One of the key considerations in developing a new technology is interoperability. As witnessed by the early issues with Fibre Channel solutions, market acceptance of a new technology, no matter what performance gains or cost reductions it provides, will be slowed by interoperability doubts.

As a result, interoperability has been a focal point throughout the development of the Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) technology standard and products. SCSI Trade Association and its members are committed to providing fully interoperable products, and in 2004, three plugfests at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory tested for both SAS and Serial ATA (SATA) compatibility and multi-vendor interoperability. Components tested for interoperability included disk drives, controllers, test equipment, cables, connectors and systems. The fourth SAS plugfest, held April 25-29, 2005, continued this commitment.

This electrical level interoperability testing provides peace of mind that products can be connected to other products from multiple vendors and integrated into existing environments. However, creating SAS solutions, particularly early in the adoption process, requires more than hardware interoperability.

As SAS products become available, the best way to begin integrating new performance and functionality into new and existing storage environments is to seek out complete solutions that provide software integration and data protection in addition to plug-level hardware compatibility.

Only a small fraction of the storage software stack is dedicated to hardware compatibility. Sitting above this is the infrastructure that determines exactly how products work in your environment and above that, the high-level applications that add functionality. One of the inherent advantages of SAS is its ability to leverage the existing SCSI software infrastructure on which most businesses rely.

When you evaluate SAS solutions for purchase, the quality of the software component should weigh heavily in your decision.

Users must understand the balance between hardware and software required to create effective solutions for their data centers. They would be well advised to choose a SAS vendor which has had many years of experience and acquired expertise in designing and developing first SCSI, then SAS products. They should choose a well-established vendor who is a leading provider of both SAS hardware and software products. In addition, the user should ask questions of the vendor about their plugfest attendance and find out if their SAS hardware and software products have been tested for interoperability with other vendor’s products.

Another point of advice for the user who wants market-leading RAID software; be certain that it is known for its hardened, core tested and proven use in demanding environments. With a single management interface that works across all elements in an existing storage infrastructure or new SAS deployments, RAID provides a model for next-generation data protection.

As SAS products roll out, the best way to ensure successful deployment and customer satisfaction is to rely on providers you already know and trust. Look for a complete solution from a single manufacturer that incorporates hardware compatibility with complete software and data protection interoperability. You will be very glad you did.

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