NAS Management Spec on Tap

NetApp teams with AppIQ to drive NAS management standard. Big deal?

May 16, 2003

4 Min Read
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A month after the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) released the first version of the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), a couple of vendors are now pushing to extend it to encompass NAS management (see SNIA Releases SMI-S Version 1).

Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) and storage software startup AppIQ Corp. announced today a partnership to develop an open interface based on SMI-S to unify SAN and NAS storage. AppIQ also claims that its solution suite management software will be the first to manage NetApp's FAS900 storage systems through an SMI-S interface (see NetApp Teams With AppIQ).

The companies are co-developing interfaces for NetApps products that can be used by third-party storage management vendors to manage NetApp’s filers. Using a combination of Common Information Model (CIM) interfaces -- which form the foundation of the SMI spec -- and NetApp's APIs, the companies will be able to provide storage resource management (SRM) and SAN management, in addition to NAS management, for NetApp products.

Industry analysts applaud the move. "I think it's important, since it also addresses the NAS community as a separate, distinct community," says John Webster, founder of Data Mobility Group. "Getting NetApp to sign on to the SMI-S movement is important."

While SMI-S 1.0 offers a standard way to manage SAN devices, NAS vendors have yet to agree on an industry-wide standard for NAS management. A SNIA workgroup is currently trying to rectify that, as it develops a NAS management standard as part of the SMI-S 1.1, which it plans to release in the second half of the year (see Storage Standards Solidify).This, in general, is good news for end users. Analysts say that in the absence of standards, users have been forced to train their employees to use the different proprietary management tools for different devices in a heterogeneous environment. The creation of standards for both SAN and NAS management -- and the integration of the two -- promises to give end users the freedom to use both technologies and manage them through a single console. This, according to Webster, should greatly reduce both the cost and the complexity of the storage environment.

In joining forces, NetApp and AppIQ say that they will not only work to help push adoption of SMI-S 1.0, but that they will also help drive the efforts of the SNIA workgroup working on SMI-S 1.1.

AppIQ, one of the earliest developers of standards-based storage management software, has already signed similar partnership agreements with Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), CommVault Systems Inc., Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI), McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA), and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW). Based in part on this traction, AppIQ is also, incidentally, No. 8 on our current Top Ten Private Companies list.

NetApp also says it has partnered with many other storage management vendors that provide products using its open APIs. “These open APIs will coexist with CIM interfaces as CIM and SMI-S continue to make rapid progress in establishing storage management standards,” says Suresh Vasudevan, NetApp’s senior director of product management.

Meanwhile, EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) is displaying its typical ambivalence on these kinds of issues. The company is committed to the development of standards both for SAN and NAS, says spokesman Mike O'Malley, but he points out that the company's existing StorageScope product can already manage both technologies. "Standards are awesome," he says [like totally!]. "But standards take time."NetApp and AppIQ are not planning to wait around for the release of SMI-S 1.1 to announce unified SAN/NAS management products, an AppIQ spokeswoman says. AppIQ is expecting to ship a functional version of its software with SAN support for NetApp in the third quarter, and with NAS support in the fourth quarter this year, she says, adding that the NAS version delivery date will to some degree be determined by the stability of SMI-S Version 1.1.

That may be a good idea. Launching products before the standards are set could be a risky game, according to Randy Kerns, an analyst with Evaluator Group. "The standard for NAS isn't currently defined," he says. "What if something changes?"

— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Byte and Switch

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