New Way to Manage Storage

Storage Networking World show will host client app that makes devices 'speak the same language.'

Top storage vendors will gather this week to test software that promises to help solve incompatibilities in heterogeneous environments.

At the Storage Networking World show in Desert Springs, Calif., the client software will demonstrate control of hardware from EMC Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and Sun Microsystems Inc., in addition to switches from Brocade Communications Systems Inc.

The software, based on the CIM (Common Information Module) specification, was written by Steve Jerman, storage management architect at Hewlett-Packard Co.s Networked Storage Solutions Organization, in Boise, Idaho. Jerman chairs the CIM groups of the Distributed Management Task Force and the Storage Networking Industry Association.

The software is based on CIM, which is governed by the DMTF. CIM was created in the late 1990s by Cisco Systems Inc., initially for systems management. Its development is continuing at HP, among others.

Unlike existing tools, which try to translate controls among devices, CIM manages storage by making devices "speak the same language" in the first place, Jerman said.

"The trouble with a standards-based approach is it can take a while to brew," Jerman said. "We think weve got it to a point now where you can do useful stuff with this thing. We aim to have a specification written by the end of the year."

Members of the DMTF and SNIA are working on device discovery issues, and how much time CIM has to either succeed or give way to vendors own tools is still unclear. Some observers say initiatives such as EMCs AutoIS, Hitachis HiCommand and Suns Integrated Management Suite will likely block its success.

"For CIM to work, you really need to have that description available in all the existing products," said Randy Kearns, an analyst at Evaluator Group Inc., in Greenwood Village, Colo. "Thats an investment in mature products that vendors dont make."

The window of opportunity will be open only until a few vendor approaches succeed, Kearns said, which will happen in about two years. Even if thats true, Jerman said, the client he wrote and others like it could serve as interoperability testing tools.

Also at SNW, HP will announce an in-band virtualization appliance, with new features such as many-to-one IP mirroring, better storage utilization rates via compacting functions, and support for hardware from Houston-based Compaq Computer Corp. and EMC, of Hopkinton, Mass.

The appliance will differ from HPs current high-end product, the $275,000 SANlink, which is only sold bundled with Fibre Channel switches, according to Nicos Vekiarides, acting general manager in HPs storage virtualization solutions group, in Bridgewater, N.J.

The new product, the SV3000, carries a lower price of $125,000, plus options, Vekiarides said. The SV3000 will be available May 1 as a redundant Intel-based system with a Web interface.

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