Storage management model gets support

For several years now the Storage Networking Industry Association has been working on standardizing the way networked storage is managed. This has been an enormous challenge for the SNIA membership, which is comprised of representatives from major storage manufacturers. After all, creating a common management interface would mean that the manufacturers would have to open up many of their corporate secrets to their competitors, wouldn't it?

SNIA dealt with this issue by reserving space within its object-based model to accommodate the various vendors' proprietary differences.

The organization has developed a management model for storage based on previously drafted standards, the Common Information Model (CIM) and Web Based Enterprise Management (WBEM). CIM is a well-documented data model; WBEM is a set of standards-based management tools based on emerging Web technologies.

The new storage management model sits between managed objects - arrays, switches, and so forth - and management applications. It is a middleware, a unifying interface that will provide a standardized way of managing all components of a SAN.

Formerly code-named "Bluefin," the SNIA software is now known as the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S). Happily, after several years in the making, it is now obvious that SMI-S has arrived.

SNIA's SMI-Lab in Colorado Springs has recently put together an interoperability matrix that demonstrates that, without a doubt, the major vendors are serious about SMI.

Here is a list of the hardware and software vendors whose products are undergoing interoperability testing. Where I have the data, I've indicated the devices as well:

  • Array and tape vendors: EMC (Clariion and Symmetrix), HP (VA7400, EVA, 9970V, 9200, Ultrium tape), IBM (Shark), LSI (E5600), NetApp, StorageTek (array and L180) and Sun (T3).
  • Switch vendors: Brocade (2800, 3800), Cisco, InRange (FC9000), Qlogic (SANbox2).
  • Software vendors: AppIQ (Solution Suite), CA (SAN Manager, Portal), CommVault (QiNetix), CreekPath (suite), EMC (Control Center, Visual SAN), Fujitsu (SANview), HP (OpenView SAN Manager), Hitachi (HiCommand), IBM Tivoli (SRM), Veritas (SANpoint Control).

Companies pay $10,000 per test per product; product upgrades cost about $2,000 to test. Testing will continue next month and, presumably, for a long time thereafter.

All this may have some appealing implications for the next set of RFPs your company sends out. A common management interface can save you lots of time, money and training. Consequently, there would be enormous advantages if all new hardware coming into your shop could be managed by your existing tool set.

SNIA's interoperability testing is the proving ground for standards compliance. Why not then require SNIA certification for any new hardware intended for your SAN? Judging by the progress that SNIA has now made, it is highly likely that you will be able to add "SNIA certified" - or at the very least "SNIA compliant" - as a requirement for any vendor that wants to submit a proposal.

I am willing to bet that within six quarters, "SNIA certified" - or whatever term they eventually decide to use - will be a check-off item on most proposals submitted to enterprise IT shops.

For more information on what's new with standards-based SAN management, check out

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