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Storage standards: A progress report

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A work in progress
Despite SNIA's efforts, product interoperability is still an issue and will probably remain so for years. Just because two products have passed the SNIA certification process and bear the SMI-S logo doesn't mean they'll automatically work together.

"That would be putting the bar a little high," says Alan G. Yoder, vice chairman of the SNIA Technical Council and senior member of the technical staff at Network Appliance (NetApp) Inc. "It's not because we don't want it [certification] to mean that [absolute interoperability]; it's because getting it to mean that is a difficult and enormous proposition. EMC has over a billion-dollar lab for interoperability testing. I don't think any member of SNIA is going to demand an investment of that magnitude, but that's kind of what it takes to get bulletproof interoperability," he says.

"What we've got," adds Yoder, "is a lower bar, but one that's high enough to indicate that they're [the vendors] serious about it [SMI-S interoperability]." However, adds Thiel, if the products are certified, there's a much higher probability things will get along.

While SNIA doesn't have examples of specific product incompatibilities, it has identified some areas not covered by the standard or their testing that might cause problems. SNIA's testing doesn't cover the installation process for the

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storage management software because that's not part of SMI-S. Similarly, the way SMI-S-compatible software handles error scenarios isn't covered in the testing process. While SMI-S includes standards for reporting errors to the app, it doesn't specify how those errors should be handled or reported to the user. That's up to application vendors.

Currently, the highest version of SMI-S that SNIA is certifying is 1.1. Yoder says that more than 400 products have passed conformance testing at that level. Version 1.2 is just coming out and its certification process is just beginning, so there's no certification list yet. However, SNIA expects to have a short list by the first quarter of 2008, with more products to be added soon after. As a result, companies that want to use SMI-S features need to test carefully. "It always comes down to testing," says Yoder. "If you don't test, you're going to have a lot of disappointments."

"SMI-S [Version 1.2] helps by providing broad coverage but not much depth, which might not be adequate for a dynamic environment," says Noemi Greyzdorf, research manager, storage software at IDC, Framingham, MA. "You definitely get more granularity and more rich information from [proprietary] APIs."

This was first published in January 2008

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