ISO Approves SMI-S

But international standardization may do little to boost SNIA spec's popularity

January 27, 2007

3 Min Read
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In a move lauded as a new ray of hope for a lackluster spec, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) has won approval of its Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The SNIA hopes ISO's blessing, which took two years and hundreds of person-hours to achieve, will promote the use of SMI-S outside North America. The association says that roughly 450 products from 24 companies have implemented the spec, which is designed to allow heterogeneous storage devices and management systems to share information.

"ISO approval is a major milestone for SMI-S," says Wayne M. Adams, chairman of the SNIA board of directors. He says it will accelerate the spec's adoption by international suppliers and encourage IT managers to require it in their RFPs.

But many remain skeptical that ISO can boost the sagging fortunes of SMI-S. They say the SNIA's taken too long to grind out the specs, that they're too limited in functionality, and that the potential is there, but not the momentum to bring it to fruition.

"There just is not all that much value in it as it currently stands," says one analyst, who asked not to be named.One storage manager at a retail firm, who requested anonymity, retains an interest in SMI-S, but says many of his peers in other companies just aren't interested in it. "My impression is that SMI-S is not huge on the radar screen with most users. They're more interested in benefits than in standards."

Presently, SMI-S's benefits appear to be limited. The spec primarily enables systems and software to register their existence with a management application. There isn't yet any support for configuration control and other key elements of heterogeneous storage management. Various SMI-S working groups, with broad vendor representation, are working on it -- after several years at the drawing board.

The snail's pace of SMI-S progress has frustrated observers who otherwise laud the effort. "I'm a true believer in standards and in SMI-S... But it's taken so long for anything to work its way through the system, and it only does discovery. There are no higher-order functions," says Mike Karp, senior analyst at the Enterprise Management Associates consultancy. "They've been lagging. Shame on them!"

One analyst thinks SMI-S will eventually prove itself. "[M]ost vendors do support SMI-S today. It is just that its limited functionality doesn't allow for adequate view into the devices. This is the way SNMP evolved," writes Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst with the Taneja Group, in an email to Byte and Switch. Over time, additional functionality will spur the spec's usefulness, he thinks, although in the meantime, proprietary solutions will rule out of necessity.

Will ISO standardization get things going? Perhaps, says Greg Schulz of the StorageIO Group. "[B]eing blessed by ISO is a good thing, however, being blessed by a standards body does not guarantee market acceptance or adoption, it simply removes a barrier to adoption," he writes in an email. "SMI-S by itself is a means for communicating and describing information, [but] that information needs something like software management tools to interpret what the SMI-S providers are sending."Perhaps ISO's approval will spur more interest in SMI-S. Meanwhile, customers appear willing to move ahead with whatever works at the right price. Depending on how much they push vendors (and on how willing those vendors are to be pushed), ongoing efforts to meet their needs will leave SMI-S in the dust -- or spark the flagging embers.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Enterprise Management Associates

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

  • The StorageIO Group

  • Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA)

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