• United States
by Tony Dicenzo, special to Network World

SMI-S unifies SAN management

Jan 12, 20043 mins

For storage network managers, six features of SMI-S will dramatically simplify SAN management.

Storage management is taking a major step forward with completion of the first version of the Storage Networking Industry Association’s Storage Management Initiative Specification.

Until now, network managers looking after multivendor storage-area networks (SAN) have required a range of independent management applications, developed by a number of different vendors and tied to multiple hardware management APIs, to keep their systems running effectively. SMI-S is the first step in SNIA’s effort to ensure that all storage systems will work together.

SMI-S is essentially middleware that sits between managed objects and managed applications. For storage network managers, six features of SMI-S will dramatically simplify SAN management:

  • One common data model: SMI-S is based on Web Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) technology and the Common Information Model (CIM). SMI-S agents interrogate a device, such as a switch, host or storage array; extract the relevant management data from CIM-enabled devices; and provide it to the requester.

  • Interconnect independence: SMI-S eliminates the need to redesign the management transport and lets components be managed using in-band or out-of-band communications, or a mix of the two. SMI-S offers further advantages by specifying the CMI-XML over HTTP protocol stack and utilizing the lower layers of the TCP/IP stack, both of which are ubiquitous in today’s networking world.

  • Multilayer management: SMI-S has been developed to work with server-based volume managers, RAID systems and network storage appliances, a combination most storage environments currently employ.

  • Legacy system accommodation: SMI-S has been developed to incorporate the management mechanisms in legacy devices with existing proprietary interfaces through use of a proxy agent. Other devices and subsystems also can be integrated into an SMI-S network using embedded software or a CIM object manager.

  • Automated discovery: SMI-S-compliant products announce their presence and capabilities to other constituents. Combined with the automated discovery systems in WBEM to support object model extension, this will simplify management and give network managers the freedom to add components to their SAN more easily.

  • Policy-based management: SMI-S includes object models applicable across entire classes of devices, which lets SAN managers implement policy-based management for entire storage networks.

SMI-S offers substantial benefits to users and vendors. With SMI-S, developers have one complete, unified and rigidly specified object model, and can turn to one document to understand how to manage the breadth of SAN components. Management application vendors are relieved of the tedious task of integrating incompatible management interfaces, letting them focus on building management engines that reduce cost and extend functionality. And device vendors are empowered to build new features and functions into subsystems.

SMI-S-compliant products will lead to easier, faster deployment and accelerated adoption of policy-based storage management frameworks.

A test suite developed by the SNIA will certify compliance of hardware components and management applications with the specification. Certified components also will be subjected to rigorous interoperability testing in an SMI laboratory.

SMI-S is being submitted to the ANSI’s International Committee for IT Standards and is expected to receive a blessing from these organizations next quarter.

DiCenzo is director of industry marketing at Brocade Communications Systems. He also is a member of the board of directors of the Storage Networking Industry Association and vice chair of the Storage Management Initiative. He can be reached at