SNIA rolls out storage interoperability specs

The Storage Networking Industry Association has unveiled a new version of its Storage Management Initiative Specification, one that has a much broader set of features than the first iteration, said Ed von Adelung, chair of SNIA's Storage Management Forum. This enhanced standard promises to help administrators get a better handle on their storage resources.

'Version 1.1 is where the rubber really starts to meet the road,' Adelung said. The SNIA is demonstrating an SMI-S-run system at the Enterprise Management World conference this week in Washington.

For end users of network storage products, SMI-S could reduce at least a few headaches. It will support equipment interoperability, in which at least the basic functionality of one vendor's equipment can be tapped by another vendor's. It should allow agencies to make more-informed purchasing decisions as it provides a set of agreed-upon terms for storage equipment. The standardized language should also free users to create storage architectures that do not rely on any specific vendor's products.

SNIA saw the need for SMI-S after hearing from the end user community about interoperability woes, said Ray Dunn, who is on SNIA's board of directors. A lot of organizations are going through storage consolidation efforts. As a result, they find themselves managing multiple storage arrays from different vendors, with each vendor's array needing a separate software console.

Although a few software companies already offer applications that can manage more than one line of storage arrays, those companies rely on individual agreements with other storage vendors to provide the outside products' application programming interfaces, an expensive process that offers no guarantee of covering every vendor's product. SMI-S is a set of vendor-neutral APIs that SNIA hopes companies will incorporate into their own products, which can be used to communicate commands across disparate devices and applications.

The first finished version of SMI-S featured a basic set of APIs for duties such as clustering and volume mapping. The newly released Version 1.1 offers a set of more complex features. One is feature policy management, a standardized language in which administrators can build automated processes. It will also include copying services, or a standardized way of mirroring and taking snapshots of data. Disk partitioning, provisioning and switch port management are also new.

In October, SNIA will publish a list of provider equipment that meets these specifications, followed by a list of client software (such as storage management consoles) next April. SNIA tests the gear itself. Only those products that fully comply with SMI-S can claim compliance. The SNIA is also calling on end users to insist in their procurement contracts that vendors make their equipment SMI-S compliant, Adelung said.

At the Enterprise Management World conference, SNIA showed how SMI-S could be used in a data center. The demonstration involved copying data from one storage array to another from a different vendor. The copying process was controlled by a console set up at the conference, while both the source and target arrays were located in its testing lab in Colorado Springs, Colo.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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