Storage standards: A progress report


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Four storage standards (SMI-S, XAM, encryption key management and FAIS) promise to make it much easier to manage storage and data.

Several storage standards are emerging that will help storage administrators manage data more efficiently. According to Vincent Franceschini, chairman of the board of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), a "standards ecosystem" is slowly developing that will allow heterogeneous storage products to better communicate with each other, as well as to protect data and more easily find it. They're lofty goals and progress is measured in baby steps. What follows is an update on four important major standards: the Storage Management Initiative-Specification (SMI-S), eXtensible Access Method (XAM), encryption key management and the Fabric Application Interface Standard (FAIS).

Standard 1: SMI-S
The most comprehensive of the four standards discussed in this article is SNIA's SMI-S. The ultimate goal of SMI-S is to let applications manage heterogeneous storage environments. It provides standardized methods to discover, collect data from and manage storage devices. While ultimate realization of that goal is some years away, SMI-S is useful today and will be progressively more useful as it develops and additional vendors provide interoperable products.

According to SNIA, there are approximately 500 hardware and software products

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from more than two dozen vendors that conform to SMI-S. Many of those products that have gone through the SNIA compliance program bear the SMI-S logo, indicating SMI-S compliance.

SMI-S is an object-based standard built around the Common Information Model (CIM). There's a separate object (profile or subprofile) for each kind of device under SMI-S. Hardware vendors instantiate the object for each of their devices (called providers in SMI-S speak). Meanwhile, software firms can write their management software (called clients) to use the objects without having to worry about the characteristics of the particular device.

This was first published in January 2008

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