Vendors cheer interoperability initiatives

Determined to bridge the interoperability gap and ease user frustrations, storage equipment vendors are rallying around the Distributed Management Task Force’s CIM (Common Information Model).

On display last week at the semi-annual Storage Networking World (SNW) conference in Palm Desert, Calif., CIM is a language and methodology for describing data management designed to replace the onerous task of acquiring the proprietary APIs needed to manage multivendor storage systems on a single network.

Part of the overarching WBEM (Web Based Enterprise Management) standard designed to unify the management of enterprise computing environments, CIM is being developed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and several vendors.

Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp. revealed at the show it is developing products to support the CIM, expected to be shipped later this year.

EMC’s support for CIM and WBEM follows the release this year of its WideSky storage management package, an entrant in the storage resource management space that allows management of non-EMC hardware and features its own common access model.

“EMC is enthusiastic about CIM,” said Jim Rothnie, EMC’s CTO. “It is not ubiquitous yet, but we hope it gets carried to adoption.”

Meanwhile, other vendors including Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Veritas Software Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., and Prisa Networks Inc. used the conference to demonstrate CIM’s ability to connect and manage disparate storage products in a single fabric.

The industry momentum signals an extension of the CIM technology to address the specific technology challenges such as interoperability between of multivendor equipment, including array controllers, FC (Fibre Channel) switches, and FC-to-SCSI routers.

“This is really happening,” said Dona Stever, the technology center chair of the Storage Networking Industry Association. “There is a lot of excitement – it is the promise we’ve been missing,” she said.

But despite the cheerleading, CIM is still very much a work in progress.

Including SNMP, there are still many ways to issue commands to a storage array and it is likely the vendors will only agree on a small subset of commands.

Analysts agree that the storage industry has collectively struggled for years to develop solutions that help its customers manage data across a multivendor storage network, due in large part to vendor reluctance to share or open their proprietary APIs to competitors and third-party developers.

Yet, according to Stever, the widespread industry support demonstrated at the SNW show – co-hosted by InfoWorld sister publication Computerworld and the SNIA – is a sign that consensus could become a reality.

Stever said that without CIM, developers face the reality of building more than 300 device drivers in order to connect different vendors’ storage equipment.

“The advantages of adopting CIM are many,” said John Webster, senior analyst and IT advisor at Illuminata, during a panel entitled “CIM: Crossing the Management Chasm” at the conference.

“It will reduce development costs [and] increase time to market, which creates a larger market – which then creates faster customer adoption,” Webster said.