Storage trade group takes reins on Bluefin proposal

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) on Monday plans to announce that it has agreed to polish a draft version of the proposed Bluefin standard, which is aimed at letting IT administrators use a single set of storage management tools to control a mix of software and hardware from different vendors.

The 350-page draft specification was written by a group of 11 storage vendors, including IBM Corp., EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Computer Corp. The group submitted the proposed standard in May to the Mountain View, Calif.-based SNIA, which includes a total of about 300 vendors.

Bluefin, which the SNIA has renamed the Storage Management Interface Specifications (SMIS), is a set of common application programming interfaces that has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of work needed to connect products deployed in multivendor storage-area networks (SAN).

Kurt Bahrs, a disaster recovery specialist at Aetna Inc. in Hartford, Conn., said Bluefin is “definitely needed, because right now all the solutions are proprietary between the [different] storage products.”

Currently, if a company “buys 10 different products, they end up with 10 different management interfaces,” said Arnold Jones, technical director at the SNIA. The trade group expects to demonstrate the draft SMIS specification at the Storage Networking World conference in October, and Jones said some vendors may begin shipping compliant products by then.

Further development of SMIS will include interoperability testing aimed at “creating better plumbing” between disparate storage products, according to Roger Reich, chairman of the SNIA’s new Storage Management Initiative forum and senior technical director at Veritas Software Corp. in Mountain View.

SMIS uses the Common Information Model (CIM) and Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) standards to support discovery, monitoring and management of storage devices. WBEM is XML-based software that creates an interface between storage devices; CIM is an object-oriented model that provides a conceptual framework for managing storage devices.

One example of the problems SAN users now face is the use of different object models for managing Fibre Channel switches by rival vendors of the devices. When different switches are plugged into the same SAN, the management software has to conform to the lowest common denominator of functionality – a shortcoming that SMIS is designed to address.

Jones said the SNIA expects to submit the specification to the Washington-based American National Standards Institute within six to nine months. At the same time, the SNIA will release test software that will allow product developers to check their coding against SMIS.

But there are a variety of barriers to the adoption of SMIS by a wide range of vendors. For example, Reich estimated that it will take another year of work before the SNIA solves problems associated with device lockout and client hierarchy. The latter governs which client systems, such as a set of databases, have priority when competing for access to RAID controllers and other storage resources.

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