SMI-S Coming of Age

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The Storage Networking World Spring 2004 show in Phoenix, Arizona wrapped up last week. Organized by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), this show continues to go from strong to stronger each year.

While Comdex shrinks and other trade events struggle, SNW attendance rose once again — from 1800 last year to over 2500 this time around. That plus the plush surroundings — the JW Marriot Desert Ridge Resort — as well as the quality of the food, giveaways, and festivities indicate that the storage industry may be a lot healthier than some might think.

According to the most recent International Data Corp (IDC) numbers, 2003 proved to be the first up year for storage since 1999, and the trend is expected to continue.

“We see a resurgence in storage in 2003,” reports IDC analyst David Reinsel. “Sales of hard disk drives, for example, had a good year.”

The big news from the show, however, concerned the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), which is aimed at integrating the management of disparate products within a heterogeneous, or multi-vendor, storage arena. SNIA announced that over 100 products from a total of 14 vendors have passed the stringent SNIA Conformance Testing Program (SNIA-CTP).

“For the first time ever, end users will be able to select storage management products with SMI-S conformant interfaces, which will help make storage simpler to implement and manage,” states Ray Dunn, chairman of the SNIA Storage Management Forum. “SMI-S will ease the day-to-day routines of storage management, and that specification will be widely adopted in all new products by the end of 2005.”

The 14 vendors to achieve conformance were Brocade, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, CNT, Dell, Sun Microsystems, StorageTek, Silicon Graphics, QLogic, McDATA, Network Appliance, HP, IBM, and LSI Logic. All of these vendors were represented at the release, and they spoke about SMI-S alleviating the complexity of discovery and provisioning, as well as laying a solid foundation for policy management.

“SMI-S is vital to all vendors in regard to commonality of understanding of storage management,” said Anders Lofgren, vice president of BrightStor product management at Computer Associates. “With a common platform to write to, product development will be accelerated, and end users will gain more freedom of vendor selection, as well as lessened complexity.”

So far, SNIA’s CTP program has focused on array and switch products. Hundreds more storage hardware and software tools are already SMI-S enabled, but have yet to be put through the rigorous testing procedure. Further, SMI-S version 1.02 has been sent to ANSI and is up for adoption as a standard by that body.

“The launch of the first set of conformant products illustrates major momentum and maturity in the storage market,” says Gabriel Broner, senior vice president of storage and software at Silicon Graphics. The SGI products that passed the CTP are in the company’s InfiniteStorage line.

Page 2: Earning the SMI-S Logo, End User Anticipation

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Earning the SMI-S Logo, End User Anticipation

According to SNIA, by earning the SMI-S logo, end users will have a guarantee of interoperability. They will have confidence that specific arrays can be plugged in to a storage network and that management will be able to occur without hands-on configuration. This is made possible via a series of agents that spans vendors and platforms.

“Storage standards increase customer choice, value, and flexibility and forces vendors to compete on value,” says Dell storage technology strategist Matthew Brisse. Several of the Dell/EMC CX line of network storage appliances and Dell Fibre Channel storage arrays have passed the initial SMI-S CTP testing.

“Customers are no longer focused on speeds and feeds — they’re in need of real solutions that meet today’s pressing business issues such as cutting IT infrastructure expenditures and protecting existing data center investments,” adds Mark Canepa, executive vice president of Sun Network Storage. Several SunStorEdge products have passed the test.

Based on initial feedback, end users appear enthused about the implications of the technology standard.

“From this point forward, SMI-S conformance requirements will be an important element in our RFP’s for any new storage products,” says Marty LeFebre, vice president of technology strategy at Nielsen Media Research. “Knowing the products we plan to purchase have SMI-S in them, coupled with the fact that the implementation has been independently tested, provides us with a level of assurance that the product will perform to our needs and deliver new efficiencies in our storage management solutions.”

At the same time, it should be understood that this is an early release of SMI-S and that there is still a long way to go. As in any 1.0 release, there are sure to be bugs that come up. In addition, many additional refinements are planned over the next several years.

“SMI-S is very young and still has infant functionality,” cautions Roger Reich, chairman of the SMI-S committee. Still, “there is a solid decade of work involved in delivering the SMI-S vision of complete storage interoperability and policy automation.”

Feature courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet.


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Drew Robb

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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