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SAN device interoperability begins to emerge

Nov 11, 20033 mins
Data Center

* SMI-S interoperability test suite is almost here

The Storage Management Initiative-Specification Test Suite, developed by the Storage Networking Industry Association, has entered its beta testing phase.  The suite is a series of interoperability tests for switches, fabrics, servers and arrays.  Its purpose is to ensure that when a user buys a product that claims conformance to the SMI-S standard, the product does indeed conform. 

If all goes well, the suite should be available to vendors before the year is out.  Users will probably start seeing vendors claiming conformance to the test’s standards by the end of the first quarter of next year.

Networked storage has emerged from its infancy, and storage-area networks (SAN) are getting bigger with each passing quarter.  This added capacity requires wider bandwidth, faster throughput and increasingly sophisticated management techniques.  The result of this is that, in addition to buying more disks, many of us must also start to look at arrays from a new set of vendors, upgrade our port counts, and improve the management tools we rely on.

Each time we do this we of course want to do more than simply add to the inventory of storage assets we have.  We also want to improve our efficiency of operation.

Adding capacity and capability, increasing throughput, and bringing new components into the storage environment all means that we are now at the point with networked storage where interoperability of all components is a must. 

The alternative to proven interoperability between the hardware and software components of your SAN is to remain captive to our present set of vendors.  In my experience, most IT managers would consider such “vendor captivity” to be the equivalent of a near-death experience without the shining light at the end of the tunnel. 

The SMI-S Test Suite will verify that vendors’ products conform to the SMI-S storage networking standard, and will ensure that components that should play together nicely do just that.  The result of this will be that you will soon be able to identify a set of components that you can drop into your existing SAN with the assurance that the new product mix will work as intended.  This of course means that the storage investments you have already made will be protected over time.

The down side of this of course is that most of today’s SAN assets will not conform to the SMI-S.  As these devices are retired from service or demoted to the support of less critical systems however, the advantages of SMI-S will become available to all of us.

So with the arrival of this interoperability standard SAN storage has emerged from its childhood and is perhaps entering the equivalent of adolescence.  Oh dear…Viewed from that perspective, perhaps we had better not stop worrying after all.