Consolidating the mgmt. of all your storage vendors' equipment

* Vendors may conform to a standard but some products may not comply

One of the highest priorities for the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is to enable IT managers to manage a heterogeneous storage environment from a single, consolidated management point. This will mean that buyers of IT equipment can make hardware purchasing decisions based on features, functionality, serviceability and so forth, but without having to worry about the long-term issue of managing disparate resources from different vendors.

Of course this is something of an over-simplification, as certain key management functions are going to remain proprietary as long as they are effective differentiators between hardware providers, but whatever these differentiators may be, the products will all share a common set of commands to describe and manage fundamental attributes.

To this end, the SNIA developed the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) Client suite, which provides management criteria for the discovery of: arrays, switches, fabrics, and host bus adapters (HBA). The goal of this is to provide faster implementation and easier management.

Leading hardware vendors have designed products to conform to this standard. Brocade, Cisco, CNT, Dell, EMC, Emulex, Engenio, HP, HDS, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, McData, Network Appliance, QLogic, Silicon Graphics, StorageTek, and Sun have all submitted equipment that conforms to the SMI-S standard. 

All these vendors are well known in the industry, and in many cases, these are companies that offer hundreds of storage products for everything from small and midsize businesses to mainframe IT solutions for large enterprises. Thus, it is no surprise that while they offer some products that are SMI-S conformant, many of their offerings do not and will not comply. (There is no need to have some products comply if 1) they won't be on a storage-area network, 2) they will be direct attach, 3) they will be retired in the near future, before SMI-S achieves all its momentum.)  Therefore, if management via SMI-S is in your company's future, ask the vendors up front about the conformance of individual products. A general rule will be that products for SMB and mainframe environments are not likely to conform, whereas open system products increasingly are.

All these manageable products will of course be of little use to you if the industry cannot put together the tools to actually manage all these storage resources. Fortunately, several vendors are now rolling out such products.

SNIA has just released the results from the first round of its Conformance Testing Program, in which management providers were tested for their ability to discover arrays, fabrics, switches and HBAs.

The results are quite revealing. While most vendors that expect to see their hardware on the enterprise IT floor are committed to SMI-S, some clearly saw the light earlier than others. At this round of testing AppIQ, Computer Associates, Crosswalk, EMC, HDS, HP, IBM, Sun and Veritas all demonstrated some ability to manage "SMI versant" arrays, although to differing degrees.

We will look at who did what - and how well they did it - next time.

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