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Storage standards: A progress report

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He also notes that there isn't any indication of how these standards will work together. "At this point, the P1619.3, EKMI and Keyprov activities are all producing standards; it is still too early to say exactly how these standards will work together, if at all," says Hibbard.

One of the features of P1619.3 is that while it manages keys centrally, the key repository and management app doesn't have to be in the same place in every enterprise. For example, for some types of applications it may make more sense for the key repository to reside on a switch and for other types of applications it may be best for the key repository to be in the tape drive, says Semple, adding that it will probably take another 18 months before key management that conforms to an industry-wide standard is available in multiple vendors' products.


Standard 4: FAIS
FAIS is a standard for heterogeneous intelligent switches in a SAN. It provides a standard API to perform the functions of a SCSI initiator and SCSI target. Using the SCSI functions, you can perform a variety of storage management jobs, such as storage virtualization, snapshots, backup, data journaling and replication, and data migration, on the intelligent switches in the SAN. You can also issue some commands to the storage devices connected to the back end of the SAN.

Using the SCSI command set also means FAIS can communicate with

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SCSI devices without the need to write additional software. But the SCSI command set limits what you can do to manage the devices and which devices you can manage natively. Moreover, FAIS doesn't offer the sort of discovery, monitoring and management functions on hardware that SMI-S does. In fact, its ability to interact with hardware other than SCSI devices is very limited.

"FAIS is a data path interface for effective insertion of functions such as [storage] virtualization into an intelligent switch," says SNIA's Black. "SMI-S is about management of the [storage] infrastructure."

FAIS, developed by the T11.5 committee of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), is much stronger at managing the SAN fabric and the data moving over the SAN than it is at storage management. For example, it does a good job of optimizing the flow of data over the fabric. FAIS is built on a split-path model that separates the flow of data from functions such as IO mapping in virtualization.

FAIS-2 (due out next summer) will add features such as enhanced separation of the control and data paths, more ways of routing exceptions to the control path, and better methods for discovering and configuring the data path capabilities. All of these will help to make FAIS-compliant applications much better at managing the SAN fabric and the data moving over it. Switches adhering to the FAIS standard are currently available from Brocade and Cisco Systems Inc.

This was first published in January 2008

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