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The Common Code

How important are standards? This seems like a simple question (or perhaps even a simpleton's question). Of course, standards are very important, you might say. It's like asking whether education is important. Or water. Or beer.

On an abstract level, increasing the interoperability among multiple vendors' storage systems and devices is unquestionably – A Good Thing. Customers don't have to be fearful of being locked into proprietary technology, thus benefiting all vendors and (theoretically) expanding the total market.

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) has been driving these points since its inception, and the group has set as its goal having all storage managed by the Storage Management Interface Specification (SMIS) by 2005. SMIS is based on years of standards work in the network management area, primarily the Distributed Management Task Force's Common Information Model (CIM) (see SNIA Puts the Pieces Together, SNIA Forms Management Forum, and Bluefin Swims to the Surface).

This is both an ambitious and laudable vision. But there's built-in resistance that every standards movement faces. It boils down to two things:

    1. User indifference: "I need something that works today – let me know when standards can actually help me do my job"; and

    2. Vendor reluctance: "This is going to force me to rewrite my software" or "Standards will hurt my business model since I won't be able to sell my device-specific management software."

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