Storage Leaders Drum Up New SAN Specification

The collective gunning for data storage interoperability has come up with a new specification to augment the management of storage area networks.

It's code-named "BlueFin," and heavy-hitting members* (see complete list at bottom) of the Storage Networking Industry Association are backing it. The meat of the new protocol is the application the Common Information Model (CIM) and Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) technology as a basis for Storage Area Management (SAM).

Why are competing hardware and software vendors, such as BMC Software, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM, taking up this task? Essentially, they want to prove that customers can manage multi-vendor products with a single management application - a Holy Grail of sorts in the niche of SAM. Specifically, the SNIA feels that the enterprise requires a standard for managing devices such as disk arrays, switches, and hosts in a SAN. Such a standard, the group said, should include a common model of device behavior, and a common language to read and set control information.

The standard is a move to address customer concerns, in particular, according to one analyst.

John Webster, senior analyst at the Data Mobility Group, said: "Without comprehensive standards for management and testing for interoperability, users will be forced to pay artificially high prices for solutions and, as a result, will find it more difficult to achieve the promised value of storage networking,"

As for technical details, "BlueFin," employs technology from the WBEM initiative that uses the Managed Object Format (MOF) to describe system resources based on a CIM, or view of physical and logical system components. WBEM includes a data model, the Common Information Model (CIM), an encoding specification based on Extensible Markup Language (XML), and a transport mechanism based on Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP).

SNIA has worked for the last five years on this endeavor with the creator of the CIM and WBEM models, Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF)

SNIA Technical Director Arnold Jones said the first demo of CIM as a management technology for storage networking took place in October 1999 at an SNIA conference in Seattle. Most recently, SNIA members demonstrated CIM-based management in the Interoperablility Lab at the Storage Networking World Conference in Palm Desert.

The contributing companies and the SNIA are cooperating to create a transition plan, slated to be topped off in July, that addresses the level of incorporation into SNIA technical and marketing activities.

Analysts have thoughts of grandeur for the storage software market. Aberdeen Group proclaimed the storage spending will reach $21.2 billion by 2005. That is a general view for which there are many subsectors, such as storage resource management (SRM), which IDC said will reap more than $4.6 billion in revenue by 2006.

*The list of BlueFin backers includes: BMC Software , Brocade Communications Systems, Inc. , Computer Associates , Dell Computer Corporation , EMC Corporation , Emulex Corporation , Gadzoox Networks , Hewlett-Packard Company , Hitachi Ltd. , IBM , JNI Corporation , Prisa Networks, QLogic , StorageTek , Sun Microsystems and VERITAS Software .


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