Storage Management Standard Looms Large

As storage technology rapidly evolves, most standards efforts are still at least one step behind the needs of IT. That's why IT managers are excited about the SMI-S standard.

Thanks to emerging storage management standards, the ability to manage heterogeneous storage systems is not the pipe dream it used to be. Unfortunately, with the constant and rapid evolution of storage technology, most standards efforts are still at least one step behind the needs of IT managers.

This is one reason for the enthusiasm for the SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification). The Storage Networking Industry Associations comprehensive (and very large) SMI-S is still in the development phase, and its functionality is limited. Nevertheless, more and more IT managers have been asking their storage vendors for SMI-S compliance.

By adding the compliance requirement to RFPs (request for proposals), IT managers can push vendors to get beyond selling proprietary technologies that shackle customers to a single storage platform.

In its most recent iteration, SMI-S 1.0.2, the specification has standardized processes for storage provisioning, LUN (logical unit number) masking and monitoring, all of which greatly improve SAN (storage area network) management capabilities for standards-based management tools. (A PDF of the SMI-S standard can be downloaded here.)

The absence of management capabilities for IP storage devices, both NAS (network-attached storage) and iSCSI, has been a glaring omission, but it should be remedied with the emergence of SMI-S 1.1.

Version 1.1, which is currently in the middle of vendor review, will add management of tape devices to SMI-S. With these enhancements in place, IT staffs will be able to use their storage management suites to manage storage devices beyond their Fibre Channel arrays.

Advanced NAS management (replication, snapshots, etc.) will not be included in the standard at first, but IT managers will be able to create and manage file shares using their SMI-S 1.1-compliant management tools.

In addition to broadening platform support to NAS, iSCSI and tape devices, SMI-S 1.1 will be able to manage enhanced array functionality such as snapshots and provide enhanced monitoring of performance and health information.

At Storage Networking World Europe, vendors showed that the new enhancements in SMI-S 1.1 would allow management tools to set up, manage and monitor data protection processes. Vendors also demonstrated at SNW Europe standards-based management of storage media library functions in tape libraries. This type of functionality will ensure that IT managers can not only manage their storage hardware with SMI-S but also see if their storage assets are protected, without launching a separate console.

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Beyond Version 1.1, the SMI-S standard will be enhanced to include advanced management capabilities, such as role-based authentication and storage policy automation, said SNIA officials.

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