News: Net Storage Management Platform: A Simpler Life for Admins and Developers?

The SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) has launched
a middleware architecture touted by its 300+ members as the first
common interface for managing multivendor storage networks.

Aimed at easing the lives of network managers as well as developers,
the new storage management platform is intended as an interoperable tools
environment. Storage network administrators don’t want to have to keep
“opening up six or seven windows” to do their jobs, said Lynne
VanArsdale, senior product manager, Quantum Corp., and a member of the
SNIA board of directors.

Future management and development tools that support the new interface
will plug into the middleware architecture, according to SNIA
members. Backers also hope that many older tools will be migrated.

The SNIA-sponsored storage interface is based on two standards
developed by the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force): WBEM
(Web-based Enterprise Management) and CIM (Common Information Model).

SNIA members see WBEM and CIM as replacements for older network
administration standards, such as SNMP. Storage vendors now use both
SNMP and proprietary APIs to gather information about devices, noted
Steve Jerman, storage management architect at Hewlett-Packard.

“We’ll grab information from anywhere we can. CIM accelerates that, so
the user gets more bang for the buck,” Jerman said.

“(CIM is) the common information model for Web-based management. It
will model everything in the enterprise. We are adding the storage
complement to that,” according to VanArsdale.

“In the future, we will be able to speak with both CIM and non-CIM
(devices),” predicted Chuck Hollis, VP of markets and products at
EMC. Eventually, to support legacy devices, SNMP agents look likely to
be wrapped with CIM.

SNIA members are also working with Open Source groups to develop the
storage management interface. “This is an Open Source effort,” Van
Arsdale claimed.

In the traditionally highly fragmented storage market, more than 300
companies have banded together within the SNIA. Members range from
storage giants such as IBM, Compaq, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun
Microsystems to mid-sized players such as Adaptec and Prisa Networks
and “emerging” companies like FileFish and iReady.

At Storage Networking World in Palm Desert, CA this week, over a dozen
of these vendors are showing interoperability among multi-vendor array
controllers, libraries, FC (fiber channel) switches; FC to SCSI
routers; and managed clients.

By and large, SNIA members are viewing FC as an industry initiative
that will proceed “in parallel” with their new storage interface.

Despite the effort toward multivendor interoperability, though, the
interface is carefully engineered to let vendors differentiate their
products with their own extensions.

“Customers want to be able to choose. They (don’t want) to have to
change their storage management (tools) as they move their
infrastructures,” VanArsdale said.

CIM includes models for systems, applications, networks (LANs), and
devices. These CIM “schema” are meant to provide a standard way of
describing management data, which can be shared among a variety of
management tools.

The DMTF’s xmlCIM Encoding Specification defines SML elements, written
in DTD (Document Type Definition), for representing CIM classes and
instances. Another specification, CIM Operations over HTTP, defines a
mapping of CIM onto HTTP seen as permitting different implementations
of CIM to interoperate.

Products supporting the SNIA’s new storage interface, though, are
still at least six months to one year away, according to industry
analysts. “No, we’re not there yet, (but) we’re closer than we used to
be,” Hollis conceded.

Meanwhile, SNIA plans to continue expanding on the CIM object model in
areas such as discovery, transactions, and “path management, all the
way to the host and to the array.”

“When you’ve got a whole bunch of devices out there on the network,
we’d like to do discovery about them in a more sophisticated way,”
according to Jerman.

Vendors taking part in the SNIA’s interoperability demo this week
include AppIQ; Brocade Communications Systems; Crossroads Systems;
EMC; HP: Hitachi Data Systems; Prisa Networks; Qlogic; Quantum Corp.;
Spectra Logic; StorageTek; Sun; and Veritas Software.

Technical work groups within the SNIA include Fibre Channel; Policy;
Network Attached Storage; Storage Media Library; and Disk Resource


See All Articles by Columnist
Jacqueline Emigh

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