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SRM tools struggle to meet today's demands

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The challenge for all of these tools is multivendor information collection. SNIA's Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) was supposed to solve the multivendor challenge, but it hasn't fully delivered (see "What's happening with SMI-S," below). "The problem with SMI-S is that it's lowest common denominator," StorageIO Group's Schulz said. "Vendors can make extensions, but to really make it work you need to use those or else go directly to the vendor's API." The need for extensions or APIs misses the point of having a management information standard.

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What's happening with SMI-S

SNIA's Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) is alive and well. Once touted as bringing storage management nirvana by which storage managers could collect, consolidate and analyze data from every storage device in their environment regardless of vendor, SNIA today has more realistic expectations for the standard. Rather than replace device-specific tools, SMI-S enables a base level of information that storage vendors can extend as desired.

Officially, SMI-S defines a method for the interoperable management of a heterogeneous storage network and presents the information to a Web-based enterprise management (WBEM) client from an SMI-S-compliant common information model (CIM) server and an object-oriented, XML-based messaging interface designed to support the specific requirements of managing devices in and through SANs. In plain English, it defines a way for standards-compatible tools to get at sets of common information from SMI-S-compliant storage devices.

Interoperability testing has already begun on SMI-S Version 1.4. However, SMI-S only takes you so far; data storage administrators will still need device-specific tools and vendor APIs and CLIs to perform certain tasks. For most routine tasks -- approximately 80% of what an administrator does day to day -- SMI-S alone should be sufficient, according to Wayne Adams, senior technologist and director of standards within the Office of the CTO at EMC Corp., as well as SNIA's chairman.

Given the disarray in the storage resource management market, many users end up with multiple tools to handle SRM issues. For example, Gorilla Nation, an Evolve media company headquartered in Los Angeles, uses SRM tools from NetApp to handle SRM on its filers and another proprietary SRM tool built into its ParaScale Inc. internal storage cloud. "No [single] SRM tool looks across everything or gives you all the information you want," said Alex Godelman, Gorilla's senior vice president of technology. The company handles online advertising sales for several hundred websites, as well as dozens of its own websites.

Many users simply skip using SRM tools and make do with whatever management tools their storage array vendor provides. LifeScript.com, a woman's health Web portal based in Mission Viejo, Calif., uses 3PAR storage in its highly virtualized server environment. "We're very fluid. We might put up a server one day and allocate storage to it and then scrap it the next," said Gary Rizo, director of IT operations. For storage management data, the company draws on 3PAR's reporting tools. "We want to know when we're running out of storage, so we use the 3PAR System Reporter to configure alerts when we approach a threshold," Rizo explained.

This was first published in April 2010

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