IBM\u00a0has added support for third-party vendors to its TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller\u00a0for the Cisco MDS 9000, which will allow IT departments with mixed storage vendor environments to virtualize storage across multivendor platforms.The move, announced at IBM's Storage and Networking Symposium this week, means that customers using the TotalStorage SVC product will also be able to manage storage on EMC's CLARiiON, Hitachi Data Systems' Thunder and Lightning, and HP's EMA and MA storage systems, along with IBM's own FAStT and Shark arrays. IBM officials said the same functionality will be extended to EMC's DMX and HP's EVA arrays in the near future.IBM also added support for iSCSI to the product, which will serve customers in lower-cost environments. Previously, the product only supported devices connected through the more expensive Fibre Channel protocol."This means that our customers can use this in a multiprotocol environment, which is a typical profile of a datacenter environment, and take it across to one common pool of storage," said Jeff Barnett, manager of storage software strategy at IBM. The new devices will help virtualize different storage platforms through one console, allowing IT managers to exact volume, management, data replication, and point-in-time copies from the network, said Barnett. "It can be a real cost and time saver for IT departments by pooling storage, adding availability, and simplifying management," he said.IT departments have been moving toward managing multivendor storage systems in an attempt to lower costs and ease the management overhead of their growing storage needs, said Mike Kahn, an analyst at The Clipper Group. "All the storage vendors are moving that direction, but it is to IBM's credit that they have done it at this level," he said.One customer of the new product said it changed the way his organization managed its storage. "We are able to make the paradigm shift today from managing storage on different servers to a switch-based vendor-independent management model," said Claus Kalle, manager of the systems department at the University of Cologne in Germany.The enhancements to IBM's TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller for the Cisco MDS 9000 series will be generally available on July 30.