News: Net Storage Management Platform: A Simpler Life for Admins and Developers?

by Jacqueline Emigh

In the traditionally highly fragmented storage market, more than 300 companies have banded together to provide a middleware architecture aimed at tying together disparate network storage solutions.

The SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) has launched a middleware architecture touted by its 300+ members as the first common interface for managing multivendor storage networks.

Aimed at easing the lives of network managers as well as developers, the new storage management platform is intended as an interoperable tools environment. Storage network administrators don't want to have to keep "opening up six or seven windows" to do their jobs, said Lynne VanArsdale, senior product manager, Quantum Corp., and a member of the SNIA board of directors.

Future management and development tools that support the new interface will plug into the middleware architecture, according to SNIA members. Backers also hope that many older tools will be migrated.

The SNIA-sponsored storage interface is based on two standards developed by the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force): WBEM (Web-based Enterprise Management) and CIM (Common Information Model).

SNIA members see WBEM and CIM as replacements for older network administration standards, such as SNMP. Storage vendors now use both SNMP and proprietary APIs to gather information about devices, noted Steve Jerman, storage management architect at Hewlett-Packard.

"We'll grab information from anywhere we can. CIM accelerates that, so the user gets more bang for the buck," Jerman said.

"(CIM is) the common information model for Web-based management. It will model everything in the enterprise. We are adding the storage complement to that," according to VanArsdale.

"In the future, we will be able to speak with both CIM and non-CIM (devices)," predicted Chuck Hollis, VP of markets and products at EMC. Eventually, to support legacy devices, SNMP agents look likely to be wrapped with CIM.

SNIA members are also working with Open Source groups to develop the storage management interface. "This is an Open Source effort," Van Arsdale claimed.

In the traditionally highly fragmented storage market, more than 300 companies have banded together within the SNIA. Members range from storage giants such as IBM, Compaq, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems to mid-sized players such as Adaptec and Prisa Networks and "emerging" companies like FileFish and iReady.

At Storage Networking World in Palm Desert, CA this week, over a dozen of these vendors are showing interoperability among multi-vendor array controllers, libraries, FC (fiber channel) switches; FC to SCSI routers; and managed clients.

By and large, SNIA members are viewing FC as an industry initiative that will proceed "in parallel" with their new storage interface.

Despite the effort toward multivendor interoperability, though, the interface is carefully engineered to let vendors differentiate their products with their own extensions.

"Customers want to be able to choose. They (don't want) to have to change their storage management (tools) as they move their infrastructures," VanArsdale said.

CIM includes models for systems, applications, networks (LANs), and devices. These CIM "schema" are meant to provide a standard way of describing management data, which can be shared among a variety of management tools.

The DMTF's xmlCIM Encoding Specification defines SML elements, written in DTD (Document Type Definition), for representing CIM classes and instances. Another specification, CIM Operations over HTTP, defines a mapping of CIM onto HTTP seen as permitting different implementations of CIM to interoperate.

Products supporting the SNIA's new storage interface, though, are still at least six months to one year away, according to industry analysts. "No, we're not there yet, (but) we're closer than we used to be," Hollis conceded.

Meanwhile, SNIA plans to continue expanding on the CIM object model in areas such as discovery, transactions, and "path management, all the way to the host and to the array."

"When you've got a whole bunch of devices out there on the network, we'd like to do discovery about them in a more sophisticated way," according to Jerman.

Vendors taking part in the SNIA's interoperability demo this week include AppIQ; Brocade Communications Systems; Crossroads Systems; EMC; HP: Hitachi Data Systems; Prisa Networks; Qlogic; Quantum Corp.; Spectra Logic; StorageTek; Sun; and Veritas Software.

Technical work groups within the SNIA include Fibre Channel; Policy; Network Attached Storage; Storage Media Library; and Disk Resource Management.

» See All Articles by Columnist Jacqueline Emigh

This article was originally published on Friday Apr 5th 2002