Users to SNIA: Help Us Manage

Management improvements could free up senior IT staff

October 27, 2005

3 Min Read
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Storage Networking World -- Storage professionals feel burdened by repetitive, mundane management tasks, and they're looking to standards for help.

In a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon, four enterprise storage architects who also belong to the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) shared their management headaches and asked the audience to do the same. The goal was to review and provide input to SNIA's ongoing Storage Managment Initiative (SMI).

"How can I get an hour of my day back?" asked Chris Wilson, a storage architect for MCI Enterprise Hosting, who also sits on the SNIA End User Council. He says he's looking to reduce the time he spends configuring systems and users.

Wilson is also keen to consolidate multiple management systems and enable them to share information -- the main goal of the SNIA Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), which has been gaining ground in product implementations, including ones from leading storage vendors. (See SNIA Demos SMI-S.)

Since MCI Hosting takes on a range of customer products, getting this kind of control over various management interfaces is key. "Each customer may have its own box, or may have different vendors, models from different OEMs, and each with separate configuration management," he said.Others on the panel concurred. "What I'm hoping for from SMI-S is being able to make management more operational," said Laurence Whittaker, supervisor of enterprise storage management support services for Canada's Hudson's Bay Company stores. Right now, he noted, senior staffers are often tied up with tasks like LUN provisioning, when some automation would allow them to design more efficient data management schemes.

Whittaker hopes vendors will try to focus more on adding management interoperability instead of trying to put too much functionality into their wares at once. He says he's had management tools for storage gear since 1999 and has had to replace nearly every product he's ever bought.

"A disturbing trend is that a lot of product developers are focused on broadening features and functions... that can make products buggy and hard to learn," he said. "If I can push management to operational levels but the operations people are busy holding products together, nothing's really been accomplished."

A third panelist, Michael Goode, director of storage services at Nielsen Media Research, mentioned the value of putting together good topology views for storage products. He says he's had difficulty finding software that provides end-to-end views of host multipathing schemes from various storage software vendors, for example.

Audience feedback was scanty, though moderator Ray Dunn, who works at Sun and is on SNIA's board, stressed the importance of user feedback in helping ensure that the work being done on SMI-S really reflects what's needed. While SMI-S has enjoyed widespread adoption, Dunn notes there is a new version underway and still work to be done before the standard is internationally approved.Despite the modest audience input, several jibes at the vagaries of managing storage brought a laugh. One came when Dunn said the panel's original format called for a vendor to sit onstage and be confronted by users Jerry Springer-style. Dunn launched more levity when he suggested storage devices come with a label: "Warning: The Surgeon General has reported that managing this device can lead to pain and frustration."

No one brought up the storage management initiative, Aperi, which was introduced this week by IBM. (See Aperi Appears Amid Questions.) Though Sun is a member, Dunn said he couldn't comment on the group when asked about it after the presentation. SNIA was not involved -- a fact that has been cited by several nonmembers, including EMC, as detracting from Aperi's value to them.

-- Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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