Industry Interview – Robin Glasgow, SNIA

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Robin Glasgow is the Executive Director of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), a non profit independent trade association representing over 200 storage vendors. We asked Robin how he views the role of the SNIA, and about some of the factors that affect networked storage industry as a whole. Here is what he had to say:

[ESF] “Hi Robin. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.”

[Robin Glasgow] “No problem. Thanks for the opportunity.”

[ESF] “The SNIA is now an established feature of the networked storage industry landscape, but how was the SNIA formed, and what is the structure of the organization?”

[Robin Glasgow]”The SNIA was formed by 17 companies who desired to impact the storage networking industry by forming a 501-C6 Non-profit “benefit association” in California. The Storage Networking Industry Association was formally incorporated on 12-18-97 and is also registered in Colorado as of 11/1/01. The SNIA is structured to be responsive to it’s membership which currently lists over 200 companies worldwide. Most (but not all) of these companies are vendors in the storage market. The SNIA members follow a set of by-laws laid out in a policies and procedures document, and elect 10 Board members to run the association. An additional three seats can be appointed by the Board. All terms are for 2 years and after 4 consecutive years as a Board member a term limit kicks in. This keeps the leadership of the SNIA fresh and robust. The Board uses a contract staff to work the day-to-day operations of the association.”

[ESF] “Who can be a member of the SNIA and what is required of members?”

[Robin Glasgow] “Any company or individual can join the SNIA, but the majority of members right now are storage vendors. We are starting to see VARS, integrators and even a couple end users join, and we plan to push that trend in the future. People join for a variety of reasons, access to Storage Networking World (our bi-annual conference), network peer interaction, to be in on the ground floor in producing technology in one of our work groups, easy access to education and certification, use of the Tech Center in Colorado Springs, etc. All members subscribe to the SNIA mission, which is that we will ‘ensure that storage networks become complete and trusted solutions for the IT community’. The only requirements we make of our member is that they pay dues on time and adhere to SNIA by-laws and P&P and IP policy.”

[ESF] “How does the SNIA work with members? For example, does it see itself as having a co-ordination role or more of an arbitration function?”

[Robin Glasgow] “The SNIA is not really an arbiter between members, we do bring them together, we do ask them to look at the industry as a whole, and to work with the SNIA to expand that industry. We do coordinate conferences, education, planning, technical work groups, but remember the competition in the industry is fierce, and in that environment (like any successful industry) we sometimes have to remind a member that they must wear an SNIA ‘hat’.”

[ESF] “Why do you think it’s important to have an industry association for storage?”

[Robin Glasgow] “It is important to have an industry association like the SNIA, to bring to the IT community manageable and interoperable products, to foster education (like our certification program for FC SAN engineers) and to bring the industry together with end users (like our Storage Networking World conference does). We are also misrepresented at times as a ‘standards body’, which at this time we are not – products do not come out with an ‘SNIA seal of approval’ on them. We do devote a huge chunk of member resources to technical work however, and our work groups produce the spec’s and API’s that go to recognized standards bodies like IETF of ANSI to become industry standards. Our work with CIM and the HBA-API are two recent examples. Our Technical Council has also introduced the Shared Storage Mode, (SSM) to the industry.”

[ESF] “How easy is it to stay impartial when, after all, members of the association are also (in a sense) customers?”

[Robin Glasgow] “From the SNIA office point of view it is very difficult to represent fierce competitors who indeed are ‘customers’ and be impartial. I teach our staff to think of the office as ‘neutral ground’ like Switzerland, where everyone can be heard, but in the end we err on the side of making good decisions for the industry. We are very careful not to take sides between members.”

[ESF] “How do you see other industry associations such as the FCIA, SCSITA and Affordable SAN Initiative, in relation to the SNIA?”

[Robin Glasgow] “We do see the SNIA as an ‘umbrella’ for the industry as we embrace all storage solutions, but we also recognize that there are other associations out there, and when we can come together to collaborate on a project or technology we try to do this.”

[ESF] “How does SNIA see it’s role developing over the next year or so?”

[Robin Glasgow] “In the next year or so the SNIA will be ‘going global’ we already have SNIA Forums in Europe and Japan, and are in process now for organizing China. We have also made initial contacts in South America and India. I see the SNIA as continuing to provide leadership to the industry through Storage Networking World and through the progress toward manageable products and interoperability. Our last interoperability demo at SNW had over 45 companies on line with products working together. We are currently evaluating the Bluefin specification, which has tremendous potential in this area. From a membership standpoint we are targeting VARS and integrators to add to the SNIA membership rolls.”

[ESF] “On a broad level, what do you see as the big issues that will affect the industry in the coming years?”

[Robin Glasgow] “On a broad level I think the association will continue to work on 4 major lines – the output of our technical work groups, conferencing and education, interoperability and test development, and global expansion. The SNIA will continue to exert leadership through our Board and Technical Council, as well as our partnership with Computerworld, to bring Storage Networking World to even greater prominence. As the industry is moving so rapidly we must also position the SNIA to respond to new opportunities.”

[ESF] “Some industry analysts have branded the storage industry as ‘hype’. What would be your response to this?”

[Robin Glasgow]”I would ask those analysts to see if their storage needs at work have grown in the past couple of years. I would ask them to go home and see if their kids are downloading music and photos from the Internet and whether that has affected their need for storage technology. It is not just the number of transactions to be stored anymore it is the size of the stored object. I would also ask if they see storage and disaster recovery as a priority these days. I do not pretend that the SNIA has an answer to all of these questions right now, but the need and the market are still growing, so it is more that just “hype”.”

[ESF] “If there were one thing that you could pinpoint as the biggest challenge facing the storage industry over the coming years, what would it be?”

[Robin Glasgow] “The biggest 2 challenges for our industry, as defined by the people who use our products, are interoperability and management, as a result the SNIA is investing heavily in these areas.”

[ESF] Thanks for your time Robin.

[Robin Glasgow] Thank you.

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