StorageTek and 3Com Form SAN Alliance

Storage specialist Storage Technology Corp. announced an alliance in mid-March with networking giant 3Com Corp.

Storage specialist Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek, announced an alliance in mid-March with networking giant 3Com Corp. ( that is designed to further storage area network (SAN) interoperability.

"StorageTek and 3Com have entered into this partnership because we see dramatic shifts and changes going on in the SAN marketplace," says Joan Wrabatz, vice president and general manager of SAN operations at StorageTek. "We’ve seen tremendous growth and awareness among CIOs [about the need for SAN solutions, and] we’ve also seen a dramatic shift within our customers of the strategic importance of SANs."

The companies plan to develop interoperability solutions and turnkey products -- leveraging the expertise of both StorageTek and 3Com -- to drive SAN development and deliver open SAN solutions for the enterprise.

Farid Neema, president of the consulting firm Peripheral Concepts Inc. (, says the intervention of StorageTek and 3Com will benefit the SAN space, which has suffered from a lack of standardization.

"[The SAN market] is still immature in the sense that there are very few [SAN] standards, even though there are standards relating to Fibre Channel, which still are not sufficient to ensure interoperability [in the SAN space]," Neema says. "Any move on the part of the heavy duty people like StorageTek or EMC, or obviously system suppliers like Compaq or [Hewlett-Packard Co.], is a move in the right direction."

The alliance will start by testing and certifying 3Com's StorageConnect products with StorageTek's storage hardware and storage software products at each company’s compatibility testing laboratories. Initially StorageTek and 3Com will work to ensure the interoperability of 3Com's HostBus Adapter (HBA) with StorageTek's StorageNet Access Hub, Fibre Channel Hub 1000 and Fibre Channel Switch 4000.

Beyond joint testing and the expected delivery of interoperable SAN solutions, 3Com and StorageTek announced plans to codevelop new technologies that will expand the overall application of SANs. In addition, the compatibility and certification laboratories of each company will also test products from other vendors to ensure compatibility with StorageTek-3Com solutions.

"A SAN solution can be tested in either company’s lab and then be cross-certified by both labs," says Randy Meals, vice president and general manager for 3Com’s storage networking division.

In fact, StorageTek positions its Vista SAN laboratory at its headquarters in Louisville, Colo., as a multivendor effort in cooperation with Brocade Communications Inc., the Clariion Advanced Storage Division of Data General Corp., Crossroads Systems Inc., Legato Inc., SCH Technologies, Veritas Software Corp. and Vixel Corp. The StorageTek lab will serve as the interoperability testing center for the products from these member companies.

Interoperability testing aside, Peripheral Concepts’ Neema says the StorageTek-3Com announcement is important for still another reason, the presence of 3Com. While there have been SAN standardization efforts in the past, including the Storage Networking Industry Association (, the arrival of a networking giant like 3Com on the scene makes this announcement a significant one, Neema says.

"The very fact that 3Com is getting into the SAN market is a good sign for SAN, because support by networking companies can only help," Neema explains, noting that although 3Com is the first of the big networking players to enter the SAN space, others will likely follow.