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ESF: So it looks like new SMI-S compliant products will be faster out of the gate if your code is available to your alliance partners. But what about customers who have spent a lot of money installing products, including Engenio products, from the pre-SMI-S era? What happens to Engenio legacy products?
JR: Great observation. We have a huge incentive to be sure our code works on many generations of our storage systems. You've probably heard of a proxy, which is a mechanism to represent hardware devices to management applications. By releasing our SMI-S Provider code as a proxy or object code that can be attained from our website, we can support multiple generations of our storage products in one piece of code. Our first proxy supports the current generation of products, one generation earlier, and an upcoming next generation. We've incorporated proxy support in our first SMI-S compliant products to give our customers a three-generation-wide range of supported products to select from. Also, by using a proxy, we can turn code more quickly and keep up with the evolving SMI specification — important at this point in time.
ESF: How are Engenio developers trained on SMI?
JR: We have from four to six developers working on the SMI-S Provider. They went through the SNIA Developers course for SMI-S last year (snia.org/smi). Our developers evaluated the course experience as "intense, great to have." As new developers are assigned to the project, they go through the course at the SNIA Technology Center, which has recently evolved into three separate, more targeted courses (http://www.snia.org/tech_center/institute/). Developers can participate at the level of their interest. Our developers also learn from the hands-on experience at the SNIA Technology Center SMI-Lab. The SMI-Lab provides a fabulous atmosphere to collaborate with other developers working toward a common goal of integrating products.
ESF: We've heard a number of analysts talk about storage as a "utility." How does the testing program help enterprise users work toward a "utility" model of connectivity and availability for their storage?
JR: One storage administrator joked about his life in the data center being a combination of two movies: "Armageddon" and "Groundhog Day." We're just getting so much more information to store, protect, and manage that it is simply an explosive environment. We live everyday trying to maintain capacity and keep our business data protected while trying to accomplish the ultimate task of using information for a competitive advantage.
These challenges are why the storage industry is working toward providing storage and data protection on an "as needed," or utility, basis. In order for applications to request a copy of data or more capacity in a simplified manner, it is imperative to integrate storage resources with business and management applications. This can only realistically be accomplished on a broad scale of devices and applications if there is a standard method for storage hardware and software applications to communicate. This is the essence of the SMI-S standard — to provide a standard way for storage devices and applications to communicate. The CTP provides the validation and enforcement for this standard of communication. We're confident that with the SMI-S standard and SNIA-CTP, applications will become more fully featured in requesting the storage resources needed to simplify the life of the challenged data center administrator.