Users question viability of new storage standard

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) announced last week that more than 100 products from 14 leading storage vendors have been qualified on a new interoperability standard. But members of a user group were skeptical that their multivendor storage-area networks could be easily managed through a single software interface.

The SNIA said the products have passed its conformance testing program, meaning they are compliant with the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), a set of protocols that allows storage management tools to manage storage devices from any manufacturer.

Still, IT managers attending a meeting of the SNIA End User Council Wednesday questioned whether there would be enough vendor buy-in on the interoperability standard to make it work.

Joseph Goins, an IT manager at IntelliBrowser Solutions Inc. in Milton, Wash., said SMI-S compliance will always lag behind proprietary application programming interfaces because vendors will develop their own interfaces before working to make them compliant with an industry standard.

One user, who didn't identify himself, said some of his vendors are using an abstraction layer on their software to give the appearance of SMI-S compliance but are actually relying on API partnership agreements with other vendors to perform management functions. "They want to keep their APIs as a differentiator," the IT manager said.

Mike Alvarado, a consultant at Toigo Partners International LLC, said the SMI-S conformance program must build more credibility by challenging vendors to make their products compliant with SMI-S.

It seemed clear that many users are looking for an easy-to-use management solution for SANs.

John Clarke, a storage architect at Thomson Legal and Regulatory Corp. in Egan, Minn., said he has between 400TB and 500TB of storage capacity on his data center floor and recently lost a systems administrator, leaving him with seven people to manage about 60TB each.

"It's a complex environment, and I have to make it easier to manage because I'm not going to be able to hire more people," Clarke said.

In an interview with Computerworld at the Storage Networking World conference here in Phoenix, Mark Detert, director of data center and automation operations for Visa USA's debit processing services in Englewood, Colo., said it's up to vendors to help out users by bolstering the interoperability of storage devices. Vendors, he said, need to realize that they will never have 100 percent of an enterprise-class data center so they need to "either play the interoperability game or get out."

"The comment I heard from a vendor yesterday was distressing. They're still going to work through API agreements with various vendors, which would lead one to believe there's more work needed on that (specification)," said Ken McNamara, an IT manager at Motorola Inc.

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