StoreAge Networking Technologies has started shipping the first SPAID-optimised storage applications. This will allow storage sevices, such as data snapshots, replication and migration, to run in a storage fabric, independent of the front-end servers and back-end storage devices.

Intelligent storage fabric platforms that can run such services are coming from Brocade, Cisco, McDATA and others. The intelligent switch vendors are also developing FAIS, a fabric API, which should enable in-fabric storage applications to use different vendors' switch platforms and not be locked in to any one supplier.

SPAID stands for "split-path acceleration of independent data streams". It separates data routes through a storage network from control message paths.

Arjun Taneja of the Taneja Group reckons that it is a development of the in-band vs out-of-band virtualisation debate. In-band virtualisation devices sit on the data path and potentially choke it if they have limited capacity. Out-of-band devices don't bottleneck the data path but do require server agents - a dependency customers could do without.

Generally SPAID products are out-of-band and don't require server agents, offering the best of both worlds. Running storage virtualisation on SPAID platforms in the fabric provides a basis for layering other storage services on top, such as the data protection applications mentioned already.

The StoreAge software does require server agents. Richard Pain of StoreAge partner Solution Agents said: "If agents are an issue you can always use the Troika Accelera which removes the need for agents in the StoreAge environment."

The Troika SAN Volume Suite (SVS) is a combination of the StoreAge family of storage services and the Accelera SPAID-based Network Storage Services Processor (NSSP). iVivity Inc. is shipping its iDiSX ASIC processors with the StoreAge software running inside the ASIC processors themselves.

Mark Spowart, StoreAge's president, said customers: “can implement tiered storage solutions independent of servers, operating systems and storage devices. The performance of a split-path architecture allows them to expand at will while retaining centralized, enterprise-wide management.”

EMC is also active in the SPAID storage application area. StoreAge will not be alone for much longer, not if EMC does its spade-work at its usual rate.