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For more information on some of the various standards in this story:

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ASI: This is the home page of the organization shepherding the standard. For an overview of the standard itself, you can go directly to www.asi-sig.org/education/overview.
iSCSI: Look for RFC #3270 (the core standard) as well as 3721 (iSCSI naming and discovery), 3347 (requirements), 3723 (security) or go directly to the core standard's spec at www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc3720.html.
NDMP:Look for information on the NDMP initiative here.
RAID DDF: This is the Storage Networking Industry Association's home page for RAID DDF's technical working group.
SMI-S:Here's the Storage Networking Industry Association's home page for this standard.

Of the standards reviewed here, SMI-S and iSCSI arguably have the most potential for the most long-term, direct impact on users. Several large companies have already included SMI-S as one of their requirements for storage contracts currently out for bid, according to two SMI-S spokesmen.

The main reason for this demand: SMI-S addresses a huge user need to more effectively manage different vendors' switches, RAID arrays and the like, and to share information among the different management packages. The way things work now, storage gear is often managed with proprietary software that tends not to work well with other vendors' software. So it's next to impossible to get information about how well your Brocade switch is performing, for instance, from your EMC Corp. Symmetrix-based storage area network (SAN).

SMI-S aims to solve that problem by extending some older standards, namely the Common Information Model and Web-Based Enterprise Management, both developed originally by the Distributed Management Task Force. SMI-S takes those as the basic transport mechanism and then adds an object model, an automated means of discovering new SAN components as they're added, resource locking and other features.

So far, 14 vendors--including AppIQ Inc., Dell Inc., Computer Network Technology Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Hitachi, IBM Corp., Network Appliance, Softek Storage Solutions Corp. and Sun Microsystems--have passed the first version of the certification test to prove their SMI-S products successfully interoperate. The Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) runs its interoperability lab out of Colorado Springs and is currently preparing the fifth test bed in as many years.

Version 1.0 of SMI-S has been available for more than a year, and revisions are coming in the next six months to a year, says Phil Kemp, who works with SNIA's Storage Management Forum and whose day job involves product marketing at HP's storage software group. Enhancements on tap for version 1.1 include performance management and measurement and the addition of tape libraries to the management mix. There will also "be an attempt to do logical file systems on hosts," he says. After that, the SMI-S roadmap calls for adding service level agreements and policy management, perhaps in version 1.2 of the standard.

This was first published in October 2004

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