Cisco has opened up its storage switch protocols to let partners' SAN management software work with it.

It claims history is being repeated. "A once proprietary technology market is becoming open, standards-based and far more sophisticated," it argued, talking about the IP networking business, "and now the same thing is happening as Cisco brings its expertise to the data storage marketplace".

It continued: "The lack of interoperability among propriety storage tools has made data storage expensive and difficult. But Cisco is helping change that by bringing the same approach to storage networks that it brought to data networks."

Grand words, although in reality that means the company will produce a new card that works on open protocols - and which it will charge an extra 25 percent for. Revolutions come at a price it would seem.

The latest version 2.1 of Cisco's operating system for its MDS line of switches will be based on open standards and include the Fabric Application Interface Specification (FAIS), which will allow other storage vendors to host their applications on a special chip on the card.

Virtualization technology in IBM's SAN Volume Controller, Veritas' Storage Foundation software and EMC's upcoming Storage Router can now all be ported to Cisco's new line card. That will allow sysadmins to pool capacity from multi-vendor storage arrays.

The Storage Services Module is a 32-port line card for both the MDS 9200 or MDS 9500 series storage switches. It will be sold at a 25 percent premium over Cisco's standard 32-port line card by resellers.