SNIA Readies SMI-S for Public Consumption

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) this week took the lid
off of the latest advances to the long-awaited Storage Management Initiative
Specification (SMI-S), a universal problem-solving standard that helps storage
products from various vendors function together under one manageable
interface.


Ideally, vendors such as IBM and EMC would make their flagship products
SMI-S-compliant, meaning IBM’s arrays would work with EMC’s software,
freeing up customers from having to buy products they want from one vendor
out of fear that certain software won’t work with certain hardware. Keeping
clear of vendor lock-in has been a Holy Grail to date: theoretically, much
of this would be alleviated if major vendors fully adopt SMI-S.


Known as Bluefin in its halcyon years, the complex spec is in its third
laboratory test, SMI-Lab3, in which developers test network storage and
management products for interoperability using SMI-S. While the current
version, SMI-S version 1.0, has been pulled, prodded and tested to the
limit, vendors are now testing for SMI-S version 1.1, which features
security, performance monitoring and policy management — ingredients
experts normally reserve as the successful make-up of Web services.


But along with those features, customers also want assurance that something
does what it is supposed to do. To wit, SNIA members are testing and showing
off SMI-S V1.1 in SMI-Lab3 at Storage Networking World 2003 in Orlando this
week. SMI-Lab3 includes the Interoperability Conformance Testing Program
(ICTP), which provides a testing ground for all participating products to
demonstrate proven interoperability and standard compliance.


“This ‘seal of approval’ is a major assurance to customers when making
purchasing decisions,” said Jerry Duggan, SNIA SMI-Lab program manager.
“Reliability is as equally important as interoperability when it comes to
SMI-compliant products.”


Twenty-two companies are busy integrating 40 products and creating more than
300 points of interoperability under the aegis of SMI-Lab3. Vendors
participating in SMI-Lab3 include AppIQ, Brocade, Cisco Systems, EMC,
Hitachi Data Systems, HP and IBM.


In related news, the SMI-S test suite, which is currently being used by
services provider HCL Technologies (HCLT), has entered the beta testing
phase. Slated to be complete by year’s end, the SMI-S test suite is a
mechanism for storage vendors to verify conformance of their products with
SMI specifications.


The test suite includes tests for switch, fabric, server and array profiles,
which are being developed with the storage vendors. HCLT deployed the
initial SMI-S test suite for the SNIA, which was first demonstrated at the
Spring 2003 SNW conference, and has taken the lead in developing management
solutions based on CIM, WBEM and iSCSI.


SNIA shows off


SNIA Tuesday showcased two high-priority interoperability efforts in its
annual SNW demonstrations. This year, the tests displayed multi-vendor
switch interoperability and virtualization demonstrations.


In one, the SNIA showed how multi-vendor switches can function within a
storage area network (SAN) made up of components from different
manufacturers. SNIA members Brocade, Cisco, CNT, EMC, Fujitsu’s Softek, HP,
Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, MaXXan, McDATA, Nishan Systems, QLogic and Sun
Microsystems demonstrated how “edge products” such as Internet Protocol (IP)
storage routers, and blade servers can feature embedded Fibre Channel
connectivity.


The demonstration expanded upon the Spring 2003 SNW demonstration and will
highlight new capabilities including advanced zoning via the SANmark 3020
compliance standard.


SNIA members also aired the latest virtualization tricks. Cisco, EMC,
Softek, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, IBM, Maxxan, McDATA, QLogic, Sun and
Troika showed how they can “virtualize” storage in a multi-vendor storage
pool. The demonstration allowed attendees to learn how each vendor defines
associated functions. Virtualization products from each participating vendor
were laid out side-by-side so that attendees could compare features and
functionality.


“Many vendors and customers consider interoperability to be the ‘killer app’
for emerging storage networking technology,” said Tom Mancuso, project
manager, Interoperability Demonstrations. “Achieving reliable
interoperability will enable IT professionals to seamlessly expand their
SANs by leveraging the existing storage infrastructure, and ensure a
continual ROI.”


Join the storage end-users club!


SNIA this week also announced a merger of end-user councils to expand its
outreach to customers. The newly-formed End-User Council aims to deliver
information on current storage networking solutions and technologies to
customers, offer end-users opportunities to network with each and compare
notes and discuss storage networking requirements that will shape their
businesses.


The EUC is the marriage of two existing SNIA groups: the Customer Executive
Council, a group of 12 executives from storage networking end-user
organizations who advise and the Customer Advisory Council, a group of
approximately 40 end-users who advise SNIA on the needs of storage
networking IT professionals.


The EUC will create and distribute a Storage Networking Toolbox CD, produce
quarterly Web cast case study reviews and hold “town hall” meetings and
end-user days at the SNIA Symposia.


In related news, the EUC recently announced that it is the sole founding
sponsor of the complementary group, StorageNetworking.org, a new initiative
developed by the Information Storage Industry Center (ISIC) at the
University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

EUC is the latest in a flurry of groups centered on users of storage networking technologies
in an industry fraught with competition and concern about one-upmanship.


Earlier this month, the Association of Storage Networking Professionals
(ASNP) joined the fray. The ASNP boasts 22 chapters and a Regional
Directors’ Council representing major companies and institutions like Home
Depot, AOL and Washington Mutual.

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