Byte and Switch: What is the typical interoperability testing process that you go through? For example, do you go through testing real backups using leading software packages to see if real data flow breaks anything?
Lewis: That's a great example. If we build backup solutions into SANs, both the access of online storage as well as near-line backup are absolutely critical. We spend a lot of time with the backup apps because that is such a direct part of storage and so interactive. We also build large Oracle databases, for example, to be sure the applications don't have any timeouts built in that might interact with the environment.
Another thing that we do a lot of -- a lot of people put everything in a nominal state and then do a backup, and it works fine. You actually need to put things into a degraded state, meaning that while that backup is running, you need to be failing redundant disk drives, failing data paths, you need to be doing things that are perturbing the system. That's the hard part. Most of this stuff works right out of the box in ideal configurations and situations. What customers pay us for is for everything to work when things aren't going so well. If you look at the firmware, most of the code in an array controller is error-handling code, code that deals with operation in certain events. That's the code that really needs to be exercised in these tests.
Byte and Switch: Compaq is among the founding members of the SNIA Supported Solutions Forum. How did that group come about, and what is your opinion about the impact it will have within the storage networking industry?
Lewis: The group came about, really, I'd say, because of our frustration with making progress with the idea of open SANs support. We wanted to start this forum, it had to be open, but we wanted to get it jump-started with just a few people so it could move quickly. Committees are good but can often take forever, so you have to compromise. But if you do everything in a closed-door session, you're not inclusive enough. We chose the top two switch providers and the top four storage providers. We felt that was enough critical mass to ensure that this got momentum.