Storage standards: A progress report


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Management framework
As big as SMI-S is, it's basically concerned with hardware. To use it, vendors need to write storage management software that works with the standard. To meet the need for fully SMI-S-aware storage management software, SNIA is working on what it's currently calling "the management framework."

"This [the management framework] is aimed at someone who is building a storage management application on top of SMI-S and needs component services and some agent infrastructure," says SNIA's Black. "The goal is to make it easier to do that kind of infrastructure." The management framework isn't part of the SMI-S spec, but a separate project that complements SMI-S. One piece of the framework, says Black, is a way to store the information the app discovers about the devices. By storing the information, the app doesn't need to constantly go back to the agents to retrieve the data.

Among the other pieces are a discovery module to find SMI-S agents (components) in the environment; in other words, what SMI-S services are available on the system, as well as finding Web service-based management interfaces. SNIA says the management framework has been under development for approximately a year and has at least 18 months to go before the first version of the spec is ready. It will probably receive a catchier name (see "Why SMI-S is taking so long," below).

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Why SMI-S is taking so long
The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) has been working on the Storage Management Initiative-Specification (SMI-S) for more than five years. Why isn't it finished yet?

Four years after the release of Version 1.0, a much expanded version of SMI-S 1.2 is finally gaining traction. SMI-S as it exists today is useful, but it's a long way from being complete. There are still a lot of things SMI-S doesn't do; over the next five or six years the SNIA committees will add functions in successive releases. Near-term plans include supporting performance instrumentation and NAS discovery. Enhanced security, beyond the simple security monitoring functions in Version 1.2, and IP storage are further out.

There are several reasons for the long development of SMI-S.
  1. SMI-S has turned out to be an extremely difficult standard to write because it includes so much. It supports a couple of dozen different classes of storage devices, and provides ways to collect hundreds of different kinds of data from tape library statistics to temperatures in array enclosures.

  2. It has been a moving target. SMI-S has constantly added support for new devices as well as new functionality, and will continue to do so.

  3. The process has been painfully slow as committee members went back and forth over the approach to take to the standard in general and to the various devices SMI-S included.

  4. Many vendors were lukewarm to the idea of a storage management standard in the beginning and it took time to get them fully on board.

  5. SMI-S was SNIA's first attempt at a storage standard. They were swinging for the bleachers in their first at-bat and the result was a major learning experience.

This was first published in January 2008

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