Labs-Eye View

IT managers don't need more tools. What they need-as they attempt to oversee a rapidly expanding array of storage technologies-is a universal tool belt to organize and make these tools accessible.

IT managers dont need more tools. What they need—as they attempt to oversee a rapidly expanding array of storage technologies—is a universal tool belt to organize and make these tools accessible.

Many vendors claim to offer centralized storage management software, but these applications are usually limited in operating system and/or hardware platform scope. WideSky—EMCs initiative to create a middle layer allowing EMC software to manage non-EMC hardware—is a step in the right direction, but WideSky could turn out to be a wolf in sheeps clothing if future versions of EMC software are designed with special storage management features that work only with EMC hardware.

Many IT managers are looking to standards organizations such as the Storage Networking Industry Association to deliver a base on which vendors can build their centralized management products. CIM (Common Information Model), which is administered by SNIA, is designed to manage not only the physical devices within a SAN but also all logical entities (such as volumes and shares) and storage applications (backup, replication, virtualization and so on). However, its anyones guess when a version of CIM that delivers on these promises will see the light of day.

Its important to remember that standards organizations are composed primarily of vendors. SNIA, for example, counts Compaq, EMC, HP and Veritas among its ranks. In the end, vendors will have to decide whether they want to maximize their own revenue by locking their customers into proprietary hardware and management software or work together to give customers the universal management standard they want. Based on how vendors have acted in the past, IT managers should expect to get locked in by their vendors.