Storage Standards Solidify

SNIA's management standards effort may have hit a tipping point. What's next?

April 19, 2003

3 Min Read
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After years of talk and not a lot of action, it seems that storage industry standards are finally getting off the ground.

This week's Storage Networking World conference in Phoenix featured the unveiling of the first version of a standardized storage management specification, the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), which is based on the Common Information Model (CIM), and an interoperability demonstration of 19 vendors showing systems and software working together using SMI-S (see SNIA Holds Multivendor Demo and SNIA Releases SMI-S Version 1).

"Standards efforts may finally have reached a tipping point, with virtually all major storage vendors demonstrating interoperability of their products at the Storage Networking World (SNW) conference," writes Thomas Weisel Partners analyst Jason Ader in a note.

In one example, AppIQ Corp., a storage resource management (SRM) software startup that has been an early leader in CIM software, says it plugged into the SNIA demo and was immediately able to see IBM Corp.'s (NYSE: IBM) CIM-enabled Shark storage system. "We're starting to read the CIM interfaces that we didn't write -- that's very exciting," says AppIQ CEO Dave Lemont.

While the industry has been trying to standardize Fibre Channel switches and drivers for a while, the move to standardize the tools needed to manage this equipment is relatively new (see SNIA Puts the Pieces Together).Show organizer Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is optimistic that the management standard will be snapped up quickly. [Ed. note: Of course, its whole raison d'tre is to be optimistic about things like this.] Roger Reich, senior technical director at Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) and chairman of SNIA's Storage Management Initiative, says the organization expects that virtually all new storage networking products will use the SMI-S standard by 2005.

Meanwhile, he says, standard-based management tools are already under development. Veritas, for instance, is currently building management products on top of four different CIM-based products. "Our intent is to ship this year," says Reich. Other companies implementing the standards are in the thick of development: "They're finding bugs in the standards that they could only find if they were implementing them in products."

Not everyone is as confident about the near-term prospects of storage management standards. The main complaint from skeptical software management vendors is that the standards are not comprehensive enough. "We have to support such a large number of platforms that the standards don't support them all," says Richard Ruskin, VP of sales at SAN management software startup Storability Inc. "What we see for the foreseeable future is a parallel effort."

Others also believe industry-wide adoption of the standard may take a while. "An initiative around storage management is a great development," says Ahmed Zamer, product line manager at Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC). But, he adds, "Things are still in early stages. It would probably take another one to two years for things to hit the market."

There is some validity to the complaint that SMI-S doesn't cover a lot today, admits Sheila Childs, chair of SNIA's board of directors and a VP at Legato Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: LGTO). "But hey, it's version 1," she says. "Now we're going to implement more stuff."Ultimately, writes Ader, "ISVs [independent software vendors] are likely to benefit, because the adoption of standards-based, heterogeneous storage networks loosens any one (hardware) vendor's grip on the customer, thereby defusing a major competitive weapon of large incumbents."

— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Byte and Switch

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