IBM promotes Bluefin spec

With its focus on creating an industry standard interface for customers using and running conflicting storage products, IBM Corp. says it’s adopting the Bluefin specification.

The not-for-profit Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) officially took over the Storage Management Initiative (SMI) fight last summer. On its Web site, SNIA outlines how it adopted the object-oriented SAN management interface, or Bluefin, in 2002. That move helped kickstart SMI, which is helping to further develop Bluefin and drive adoption of the specification in the industry.

IBM is but one player in the larger 15-member entity within SNIA that is committed to making SMI the industry storage standard.

According to Robin Glasgow, SNIA’s executive director, the organization is targeting 2005 to have SMI officially stamped as the standard. Until then, it appears to face a long, uphill battle.

“This would be a revolution for the industry because while we have made great strides towards interoperability, [with] 57 vendors all up and running together, there are over 250 storage vendors out there still without true industry interoperability,” said the Mountain View, Calif.-based Glasgow.

As one of the early adopters of SMI, IBM said the specification will now be included in its Shark line of Enterprise Storage Servers (ESS), based on the application programming interface (API) that helps facilitates the interoperability.

IBM says it will offer 15K rpm and 72.8GB disk drives featuring performance increases of up to 50 per cent. It plans to announce additional support for the use of 15K rpm and 10K rpm disks of the same capacity within the IBM ESS Model 800, F10 and F20 by the second half of 2003.

“We are fulfilling a promise and an obligation that IBM made to the storage industry to drive [the way] for open standards and the ability to provide interoperability of storage networks for customers,” said Kyle Foster, general manager of storage sales at IBM Canada Ltd. in Markham, Ont.

In the past, an organization that wanted to manage both Shark software and competing products required the tools IBM provided for Shark and separate tools to manage the remaining vendors’ merchandise. For those vendors that are SMI-compliant, with the combination of hardware and software, interoperability between systems is possible.

Computer Associates, Cisco Systems, EMC Corp., Intel Corp., and Nortel Networks are among the 15 advocates for the SMI standard. Glasgow said a separate technical steering group had been created within the not-for-profit group to handle the storage issue.

Yet as one industry insider noted, Bluefin may end up drowning in its own tank of water.

“It’s important, but Bluefin is not the be all, end all for [storage, although] customers really are looking for interoperability and they want to be able to connect existing resources to new resources, regardless of vendor, or platform. That’s what these standards bodies are trying to do,” said Alan Freedman, research manager, infrastructure hardware at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto.

It appears that storage vendors are stuck in the position of either continuing to fight against industry standards or risk adopting Bluefin only to have their accounts raided by the competition. Even companies like IBM, Sun Microsystems and HP that have both storage and servers – important because they can already provide interoperability on their own systems – face a dilemma.

“It will open up accounts where they weren’t the vendor of record and allow them to get into those [companies] with fewer barriers to entry, but on the flip side that also opens up (IBM’s) accounts to competing vendors,” Freedman said.

For additional information on the SNIA initiative, visit