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V-Switch Alliances Take Shape

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) have emerged as the two clear frontrunners in the SAN virtualization switch derby, but it's still far from certain how this space will ultimately play out.

Both have lined up partnerships with three major industry players -- EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) -- which plan to integrate their storage management software with Brocade's and Cisco's virtualization switches. The advantage of hosting storage applications in the network, say these vendors, is that it delivers a central point of management across the entire storage infrastructure.

"The ability to have one network provide services across multiple storage arrays opens up many new possibilities for how you manage those resources," says Soni Jiandani, VP of marketing in Cisco's storage technology group.

This week, Cisco and Veritas -- after more than a year of toil and trouble -- finally managed to turn out a working prototype of the Veritas SAN Volume Manager (SAN VM) running on the Cisco MDS 9500's virtualization module. Apparently, getting the Veritas code to run in the network was significantly more complicated than either party had anticipated. The two companies say they will both sell and market SAN VM to their respective customers. After a beta program this summer, they expect to ship the software sometime in the second half of the year (see Veritas Demos With Cisco, Andiamo Loses Ground, and Andiamo: Getting Warmer?).

Cisco wouldn't divulge particulars about its application module for the MDS. The most Jiandani will say is that it's a hardware-accelerated system: "We've invested in silicon so they can scale, but it's also tightly integrated with the software."

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