Storage Management and Standards

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Managing large storage systems is not a trivial problem for many IT administrators. The problems only multiply as the storage capacity and users go up. Management becomes even more problematic when you mix systems from a variety of vendors. Most storage vendors do provide software for managing and monitoring the various aspects of the underlying hardware, but more often than not it is specific to each vendor’s system.

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) developed and now maintains the Storage Management Initiative – Specification (SMI-S) for the purpose of enabling interoperable, cross-platform storage management. SMI-S has been around for over ten years and has slowly gained support from all the major storage vendors. SMI-S depends on other standards managed by the Desktop Management Task Force (DMTF), including the Common Information Model (CIM) and the Web-Based Enterprise Management Standards (WBEM).

The SMI-S standard defines a mechanism called a provider to allow vendors to create a custom connecting point to their storage system. This is essentially a Web endpoint for client systems to connect to and interact with the storage provider. It can often be examined using a simple Web browser to see the different unique fields.

SMI-S and Windows Server 2012

Microsoft has put a great deal of emphasis on the use of standards in Windows Server 2012. For storage management, they support SMI-S in a number of different ways. If you want to use it, you’ll need to install the Windows Standards-Based Storage Management feature from the Server Manager tool (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Windows Standards-Based Storage Management

 Windows Standards-Based Storage Management

Once you have the new feature installed, you must register any SMI-S provider with the following PowerShell command:

Register-SmisProvider –ConnectionUri

A username/password dialog box will then open, allowing you to enter administrator credentials for the target system. In this example, the address is the management IP address of the storage system, and 5989 is the port used by the SMI-S provider.

Once you have the provider registered, you can begin communicating with the storage system using either PowerShell or Server Manager. PowerShell cmdlets include the typical verb/noun pairings as seen in Get-StorageProvider and Get-StorageSubSystem. Windows Server 2012 includes a huge number of PowerShell cmdlets related to storage which you can quickly display using the PowerShell command:

Get-Command –Module Storage | sort Noun, Verb

You may need to open up ports on the firewall to allow the SMI-S traffic to pass. Here are the appropriate commands you’ll need to execute from an administrator command window to make those changes:

netsh advfirewall firewall add rule name="SLP-udp" dir=in protocol=UDP localport=427 action=allow
netsh advfirewall firewall add rule name="CIM-XML in" dir=in protocol=TCP localport=5988-5989 action=allow


HP’s 3PAR storage line fully supports the latest SMI-S capabilities in Windows Server 2012, allowing you to accomplish the large majority of your storage management tasks using Server Manager without the need to launch the standalone 3PAR tool. You will still need the 3PAR software for some device-specific functionality, but you can accomplish most of the day-to-day management tasks directly from Windows Server 2012.

With the SMI-S provider installed, you’ll have access to a wide range of monitoring information on all 3PAR storage systems. The first time you connect to the system you’ll need to execute the following PowerShell command to update the current information:

Update-StorageProviderCache -DiscoveryLevel Level2

Once that has been accomplished, you should be able to see all available storage pools from the 3PAR system such as you see in Figure 2.

Figure 2. 3PAR Storage Pools

3PAR Storage Pools

Here’s what the result of running the Get-StorageProvider command against a 3PAR system will look like:

C:UsersAdministrator> Get-StorageProvider
Type    Name                                 Manufacturer
---    ----                                  ------------
MP     Storage Spaces Management Provider    Microsoft Corporation
MI-S                         HP 3PAR

Here’s the result of running the Get-StorageSubsystem command against the same 3PAR system:

C:UsersAdministrator> Get-StorageSubSystem
FriendlyName                       HealthStatus            OperationalStatus
------------                       ------------            -----------------
Storage Spaces on DL380G7-02       Healthy                 OK
mktg-ins3                          Healthy                 OK


EMC has a long history of supporting SMI-S across their entire portfolio of storage products. They have a nice page on the EMC Developer Network with links to various EMC products and information on SNIA and SMI-S.

NetApp offers an SMI-S agent for their Data ONTAP operating system. It provides similar functionality to other vendors and plug compatibility with Windows Server 2012.

It’s also worth mentioning that Microsoft’s System Center product does use SMI-S and, specifically, the SCVMM 2012 tool, which utilizes SMI-S to automate the provisioning of virtual machines.

IBM’s XIV Storage System is another of the high-end storage vendors with full support for the SMI-S standard and Windows Server / SCVMM 2012.

Bottom Line

SMI-S is alive, well and supported by all the major storage vendors. It’s also a key part of Microsoft’s management portfolio under Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012.

The key for users is the ability to accomplish your everyday storage management chores without having to switch between multiple consoles. This is even more important in a large data center where you might have multiple storage vendors, each with their own management software. Standards are usually a good thing, and in the case of SMI-S, that’s definitely the case.

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