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Microsoft's Multipath I/O technology will ship as a device development kit to third-party partners such as EMC, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, Network Appliance and Veritas Software.
The technology allows more than one physical path to be used to access storage devices, providing improved system reliability and availability via fault tolerance and load balancing of I/O traffic.
It's expected to ship with Windows .net Server 2003 by the end of this year.
Anders Lofgren, an analyst at Giga Information Group, said that while Microsoft's venture into the storage software market has been expected, it was not unwelcome.
"It should ease integration issues in terms of providing high availability and functionality through multipathing for Windows environments. Anything that can be done to improve in that area is a good thing," Lofgren said.
More than a dozen vendors have committed to developing products that will use Microsoft's Multipath I/O to deliver capabilities such as fail-over, load balancing and interoperability with third-party storage products such as host bus adapters and RAID arrays.
Rakesh Narasimhan, general manager of strategic partnerships at Microsoft, said that partner vendors such as Emulex, Fujitsu, LSI Logic Storage Systems, NEC and Network Appliance expose the different behaviours of their hardware through an application programming interface and deliver the I/O software through it.
"It's a standards and interoperability path between them and us. On Windows, we can guarantee a level of service with their products," Narasimhan said.