SNIAs No. 1 Fan

Q&A: As its chairperson, Franceschini is looking to expand the group's reach in the industry.

Vincent Franceschini is an ebullient man, and its a good thing. As chairman of the board of directors of the Storage Networking Industry Association, Franceschini is charged with being the head cheerleader for an organization that is rising in both credibility and visibility in the IT world. SNIA is a not-for-profit global organization of more than 460 member companies and almost 7,000 active individuals. Senior Writer Chris Preimesberger met with Franceschini Sept. 11 at SNIAs Storage Development conference in San Jose, Calif.

What is the main message you bring from SNIA to storage developers around the world?

We are here to help and support storage developers through education, testing and getting them together with gurus of industry. We start with events like this to inform and educate developers about new topics—or different angles on new topics—as well as touch on the usual standards-type topics.

This is the way knowledge is being spread out. This is how new ideas are being communicated. This is also how new projects are being done.

Everything from open-source techniques for development [to] new file systems [to] SMIS [Storage Management Initiative Specification] is being discussed here. But what we are really focusing on is what is required to get the job done.

At the same time, we provide an environment where you can come and test your product against whats being done elsewhere in the IT community. This is not only a way to come and learn and exchange ideas with your peers and some gurus of the industry, its also a place to learn about other areas you might not know as much about: storage management, object storage, security, iSCSI.

Its not only about the general concepts; you can also drill down to some concrete examples. When attendees go back home, theyll have good information in the front of their minds about how to solve some of these tough problems. This is a very rich environment for learning.

Specifically, what is SNIAs role in working with the open-source community in helping advance storage software development?

About a year ago, SNIA made a major decision to bring software development activities in-house. Before that, it was only about developing standards specifications or specifications to be standardized. The idea was to say, "Developing standards is very important; itll still be part of this mission, but were going to add software development."

To accelerate the adoption of these standards and to help with addressing different environment requirements, whether its on a business level or a technical level, then maybe we have to have new software tools available to help with this—whether these tools are debuggers for some code, protocol testers or a reference platform to help with the implementations of some more concrete solutions sets.

There is a new software development TWG [technical work group] that is in place today, working on projects. This [TWG] is a gated community by SNIA membership; most of the storage actors—the main players in the storage industry—are in it.

Our relationship with the open-source community is that we are in a position now where we can leverage open-source development because we have constructs inside the organization to take advantage of this. And it doesnt mean that in any point in time, SNIA will not be able to give something back. Right now, this is really a phase in early development steps. We are going through a learning curve with regard to what software development activities mean at SNIA.

Today we have to be in a position to make all sorts of efforts to make sure that standards are understood, not only from a theoretical point of view but also from a practical standpoint: how to use standards in real product constructs. Thats really what were about in the open-source community.

Are you seeing an upsurge in interest in storage software development activity among members of the development community—open source or non-open source? Are relatively new technologies such as virtualization, deduplication, thin provisioning and a revived general interest in storage driving more interest in this as a development objective?

Absolutely. Now storage is on a par with all the other technology domains of the data center. Now storage is integrated with the rest of the resource planning considerations, and the same goes for disaster recovery and any global planning that affects IT operations for the enterprise.

I have to say I am proud that SNIA has played a role in making sure that storage is considered properly in the development community. Moving forward, with the increased use of technologies and management models leveraging things like virtualization, etc., management people will be in a position to be able to pick and choose the right resource at the right time for the right application for the right business purpose.

That involves servers, applications, networking and storage—the ability to make sure that you have access to the right storage service at the right time, all to the right data set, to run the right application or task you have to do to run your business.

This means that storage is, by default, now included in all this resource planning from the management perspective, from the information access perspective, from a regulatory/compliance perspective—all the legal aspects around accessing information [and] sharing information.

Something interesting happening now is that all the startups we know in the industry are taking core technologies that the storage has been working on and taking them one step further, so they can go and integrate it with their applications for next-generation data center architectures.

So its [storage software development] getting one step further from an infrastructure standpoint, but also from an application standpoint. I think were moving data management for business closer to what applications really need to do to help people do their business.

Storage is definitely at the heart of all this, and SNIAs effort is really to make sure that the storage industry understands all these dynamics and also understands where the gaps are. And what are the development steps that we need to do in order to make sure that the benefits of storage solutions will be clearly understood by developers and also by IT users.


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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...