Ask the Expert

2004 SAN predictions: Programmable storage, fabric-based intelligence, SMI-S -- Part 3

SAN expert Christopher Poelker reports in with his predictions for 2004. At the top of his list is something he calls "programmable storage" and he explains how current technologies will converge to make that happen. Chris also predicts that we'll finally see some benefits from SNIA's standardization efforts, virtualization at the fabric level and SMI-S technology making storage management simpler.

Also, take a moment to go back in time and look at Chris' 2003 predictions to see how they played out.

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Since intelligent data management software means being application aware, the right management software not only needs to be able to manage and monitor storage but also the entire storage path, the servers, the client network and the applications themselves.

Wouldn't it be cool if you could use a single Web console to monitor and manage everything in the data center?

In 2004, we will finally start to see the benefits of standardization efforts driven by the storage networking industry alliance (SNIA) and the Internet engineering task force (IETF). Common information model (CIM) management and Web-based enterprise management (WEBM) will enable IT departments to create application process flow policies for their data. New technologies and tools becoming available to help you gather useful information about your data, that can help you manage your storage more efficiently. The SNIA is currently working on the mechanics of using "object based" storage methods, where metadata about the data you store will allow you to manage that data better. Let's face it, data has a life cycle. The older it gets, the less important it is.

Wouldn't it be nice, if very soon, as the data you store gets older and less accessed, it can be dynamically and automatically migrated to different tiers of storage devices based on the policies you create? Wouldn't it also be nice to never have to worry about government regulations regarding your data, since the intelligent SAN policies you create will automatically take care of migrating that data to "WORM" like storage devices? This all becomes possible in 2004 as vendors conforms to the SNIA storage management initiative (SMI-S) which takes a page out of application programming with "classes, objects and methods" that can be interrogated through CIM/SOAP and XML solutions.

The combination of intelligent fabrics, file systems, storage arrays and application aware management software will let you create "programmable storage." XML metadata tags that describe data can be stored with it. Policies can be created to manage different data types. Storage can be classified by properties, such as performance or reliability. Methods than can be invoked through the management software (hardware-based snapshots will be a method).

The advent of programmable storage will enable a complete paradigm shift in how IT departments handle data resources. The hard work (which is policy definition and creation) needs to be done by you. So start defining your policies today. Begin by benchmarking your storage arrays to get the performance metrics that can be included in your policies for data placement. You will need to take a closer look at your current business processes to make sure they tie in seamlessly with your data management policies. The end result is a completely automated data center that can be monitored via a single console and managed by application rather than specific components.

Happy New Year!

Chris

From the editor: CLICK HERE for more information on SAN issues and technology from Chris and CLICK HERE for a look at our Fast Guide to SAN management.

CLICK HERE for Part 1.

This was first published in December 2003

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