IBM has upgraded its TotalStorage SAN software to work with rival storage products and more operating systems, including Red Hat Linux and Solaris.

Unlike previous versions of the SAN File System which supported only IBM products, Version 2.1 will work with storage devices from IBM rivals including EMC, HP and Hitachi. It will also now support the Red Hat Linux Enterprise Server 3.0 and Sun's Solaris 9.

The software will ship on 29 June and has been enhanced to allow customers to move data from one device to another without disrupting their server operating systems, said Jeff Barnett, manager of IBM's storage software strategy. "The environment itself is designed so that it isolates your server environment from your storage environment," he said.

IBM's SAN File System is based on SANergy technology the company acquired from Mercury in 1999, and while it was initially released as a product last autumn, it has been under development for some time, said Arun Taneja, founder of storage industry research firm, the Taneja Group. "IBM's SAN File System is actually fairly mature in that regard, because they didn't start from scratch," he said.

SAN file systems are useful for companies looking to provide a number of different servers with identical views of data on the network, Taneja said. "This kind of stuff comes into play where there are large amounts of data, you have heterogeneous server environments, and you have the need for several servers to work with each other on a particular application," he said.

The Ohio Supercomputer Center has been working since mid-January on implementing the SAN File System on 520TB of storage it is using for a variety of high-performance computing tasks. The center decided to use IBM's software because of it could be used by a large number of systems and with a large amount of storage, said Leslie Southern, the director for high-performance computing at the center.

Though the center is using the SAN File System exclusively on IBM FAStT900 and FAStT600 storage servers right now, version 2.1 might change that, she said. "We have a heterogeneous environment as far as computing goes," she said. "It gives us more flexibility in choosing the appropriate equipment."

Version 2.1 of the SAN File System will be available standalone, or as a free upgrade to existing customers. Pricing for the software will remain unchanged, IBM said. There will be a $10,000 per processor licensing fee for the File System's Metadata Server, and customers will pay a $5,000 per processor usage charge for application servers that use the file system.