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ILM to Take Center Stage at Storage Show

Information lifecycle management (ILM) and intelligent networking will be the prevailing themes at next week's Storage Networking World Spring 2004 show in Phoenix, according to analysts and vendors.

Look for a flurry of demonstrations from key networking fabric vendors such as Cisco Systems, Brocade Communications Systems and McData .

But one of the highlights could be the annual update on the long-running story of the Storage Management Initiative Specification, or SMI-S.

Formerly called Bluefin, SMI-S posits a specification for allowing hardware and software from different vendors to interoperate in storage area networks (SANs).

The spec cuts through the clutter of alien code to enable uniform functionality in a sea of products from disparate and competing vendors. This could also help customers cut costs associated with purchasing point products and adapters to help disparate products work together.

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) said in a statement it plans show how arrays, switches, host bus adapters (HBAs), network-attached storage (NAS) devices and storage media libraries from multiple vendors can be integrated using SMI-S.

According to SNIA spokesman Ray Dunn, the demo will consist of real-time SAN management functions such as adding arrays and switches to the SAN, creating and mapping volumes to hosts, setting up zones and injecting faults into the SAN like unplugging cables.

The demo, which will employ products from Cisco, EMC, HP, IBM, HDS and a host of others, originated from SNIA's SMI Lab in Colorado Springs, Colo., which brings together products from hardware and software vendors.

Nancy Marrone-Hurley, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, said SMI-S is ready for prime-time and called the interoperability progress SNIA and all the vendors supporting SMI-S have made in the past two years "impressive."

Marrone-Hurley also told internetnews.com there will be a few announcements in the switch area, as well as demonstrations of intelligence in the fabric, including announcements that show the switch vendors are strengthening their portfolios and providing more investment protection as customers build out their SANs.

The small- and medium-business (SMB) market is big this year, with lots of partnerships and products in the news, she added. She said Microsoft is expected to unveil some new offerings that make it easier to use the company's servers in a SAN, as well as some long-awaited announcements designed to strengthen its NAS position.

Beyond that, the party line seems to be ILM.

"But be ready to be confused," Marrone-Hurley said. "Not all vendors see ILM the same way, and to be truthful most every ILM solution' offered today is actually more DLM [data lifecycle management] -oriented, meaning those solutions are focused on moving data around the storage infrastructure, and have no real knowledge of the affect on an application of that data movement."

EMC Vice President of Platforms Marketing at EMC Chuck Hollis had his own take on ILM for the show

"I think this is where the industry has to show how customers achieve ILM," Hollis said. "We basically look at it as -- classify your applications and information around multiple tiers of cost and service levels, automate and manage it. By that definition, it doesn't leave a lot of room for niche players. If you're really going to do ILM, you have to do it across a lot of your environment. A lot of people are saying here's the piece I do and customers are saying 'I want the whole enchilada, not just the diced onions, please'."

Meanwhile, McData, Cisco and Brocade have all promised to demonstrate products at the show in conjunction with partner companies.

McDATA will team with StoreAge Networking Technologies and Aarohi Communications to show how volume management, snapshot, mirroring, data replication and migration products work with its upcoming Sphereon Intelligent Switch.

Cisco will introduce its MDS 9000 Data Tap Service, a new interface that provides a bridge between Cisco switches and third-party storage appliances to access servers and storage devices on a SAN without having to be directly in the path of the data. Software vendors Alacritus, Kashya and Topio will join Cisco in the demo.

Rounding out the switch makers, Brocade will give attendees a peek at its new entry level switches SMBs. Brocade will also demonstrate its multiprotocol router and multiprotocol SAN routing services.