Microsoft Unveils Part Of Storage Strategy

Microsoft officials said steps had been taken to ensure interoperability among storage products from various vendors.

The company's Multipath Input/Output (MPIO) technology allows up to 32 physical paths to access a storage device as a way to improve system reliability and availability by enabling such features as fault tolerance and/or load balancing, said Rakesh Narasimhan, general manager of strategic partnerships for Microsoft's Enterprise Storage Division.

MPIO is a standard interoperable path which simplifies storage management. Storage vendors can use the MPIO specifications to build drivers for their devices which allows the multiple paths to be assigned without worrying about whether or not the devices will work with other vendors' devices, Narasimhan said.

This eliminates the hodgepodge system whereby storage vendors had to create the expensive one-off implementations that are currently necessary under the Windows operating system, said Narasimhan.

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"These functions are taken for granted in the enterprise, but we now can offer them," Narasimhan said. "This brings a different set of availability solutions to our platform."

Chris Compton, enterprise account manager for SoftNet Solutions, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage and networking solution provider, said MPIO is something Microsoft really needs. "This will help improve SAN performance on Microsoft platforms," he said.

MPIO is similar in many respects to storage virtualization, a concept which many storage vendors are adopting, Compton said. "Everybody's getting into (virtualization)," he said. "They want to connect everybody's storage together, and deal with it like one big shebang."

The implementation of MPIO drivers will not affect the storage vendors' ability to add their own enhancements, Narasimhan said.

MPIO drivers for Windows .Net are currently being tested in Microsoft's labs. Narasimhan expects the storage vendors to release MPIO drivers for both .Net and Windows 2000 the day Microsoft releases .Net.

Storage vendors who have already signed on with Microsoft's MPIO program include 3PARdata, Agilent Technologies, Egenera, EMC, Emulex, Fujitsu Ltd., Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Ltd., LSI Logic Storage Systems, Maranti Networks, and NEC.

Others include Network Appliance, oPoet, PolyServe, QLogic, Rhapsody Networks, Seagate Technology, Stratus Technologies, Unisys, Veritas Software, Vicom Systems, and XIOtech.