SNIA Readies SMI-S for Public Consumption -

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 aims to help 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, for example, IBM's arrays would work with EMC's software, freeing up customers from having to buy products from only one vendor out of fear or uncertainty that specific software wouldn'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 this week's Storage Networking World 2003 conference in Orlando. SMI-Lab3 includes the Interoperability Conformance Testing Program (ICTP), which provides a testing ground for all participating products to demonstrate proven interoperability and standards compliance.

"This 'seal of approval' is a major assurance to customers when making purchasing decisions," says Jerry Duggan, SNIA SMI-Lab program manager. "Reliability is 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 completed 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," says 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."

SNIA's End-User Council Debuts

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 other, 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; 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 Webcast 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,, 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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