Common storage management interface maturing

Simplifying the process of managing multivendor storage installations is a top priority for many IT managers, and technology vendors are starting to show how they plan to make that happen.

At next week’s Storage Networking World conference in Orlando, a group of about 20 vendors will demonstrate a multivendor storage-area network (SAN) that is monitored and managed through a single open interface based on specifications being developed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) in Mountain View, Calif.

Key storage vendors are also starting to announce plans for shipping products that support the interface, which originally was known as Bluefin and is now part of the Storage Management Initiative (SMI) that the SNIA launched when it took responsibility for completing the proposed standard in August. For instance, EMC Corp. in Hopkinton, Mass., last week said it plans to release SMI-enabled software development kits next year as part of its WideSky storage management technology initiative.

The SMI effort includes the use of two related specifications: an object-oriented storage management framework called the Common Information Model (CIM), and Web-Based Enterprise Management, which defines an interface layer for sharing CIM data between products.

George Mele, director of software marketing at EMC, said CIM in particular will take pressure off software developers who now spend much of their time writing middleware interfaces to other vendors’ storage products.

“The faster CIM gets adopted, the better it is for EMC, because we can start focusing on higher-level functions and let CIM take care of the housekeeping,” Mele said.

Most of the leading storage vendors said they plan to offer SMI-compliant software and build support for the interface into their storage devices by next year. The multivendor demonstration at this week’s conference, which is being jointly sponsored by the SNIA and Computerworld, will include companies such as EMC, IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Hitachi Data Systems Corp. and Network Appliance Inc.

Brad Stamas, chairman emeritus of the SNIA, said the current approach of relying on individual application programming interfaces (API) to exchange data between different devices on a SAN is both clumsy and arduous. “Using a proprietary API exchange doesn’t really scale that well,” Stamas said. “Users are faced today with picking a flavor, picking a vendor.”

“HP doesn’t believe API exchanges are a good position to be in long term,” agreed Steve Jerman, storage management architect at the company. “It’s just too difficult. Once more than two devices use [SMI], that’s one less interface we have to deal with.”

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