Open management standard still simmering

CIM is a promising model for open storage management, but unless the vendors get together, the end user might face vendor lock-in for a long time to come.

The search for common ground in storage management standards is rife with interoperability problems and vendor resistance, but experts say unless storage vendors come together to solve the networked storage management nightmare the most promising standard for open management -- the Common Information Model -- may be sitting on the back burner.

There was concern among vendors and experts alike at the Marcus Evans Conference on Data Storage and Business Continuity last week that the Common Information Model (CIM), an open standard for data management developed in part by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), might be eclipsed by a proprietary management product, like EMC Corp.'s WideSky management platform.

CIM is an object-oriented description of the entities and relationships in a business' management environment, according to the SNIA technical dictionary.

CIM, which was first demonstrated by the SNIA in October of --> 99, is divided into a Core Model and Common Models. SNIA stated the Core Model addresses systems and devices, as well as fundamental relationships such as dependencies. The Common Models describe specific problem domains such as computer system, network, user or device management.

No one really knows if CIM will ever come to fruition, and getting a core of significant vendors to agree on anything in storage is not that easy.

"History shows that such initiatives are horribly slow to get rolling, and often start to fall apart after a year or two of having lots of meetings and little accomplishment," said Mike Karp, senior analyst, Enterprise Management Associates Inc., Boulder, Colo.

In fact, a lack of useful software is keeping some of the neediest storage users from using storage area networking technology altogether.

"The only SANs we're implementing now are small scale," said Charlie Truglio, manager of IT operations for AT&T Corp., who was given the task of finding a large scale SAN. "I have all different storage and [SAN technology] doesn't cut any of my costs. If I can't control and manage it and I can't simplify it I'm not going to do it. I'm stuck," said Truglio.

"I need something to control my storage and I don't just want one vendor doing it," he said. "I've heard these grand and glorious strategies for years. I want to see it."

"If you're an end user SAN technology is not mature enough to help you any way," said Jon William Toigo, independent expert and author of the Holy Grail of Data Storage Management .

Toigo said while the CIM is still simmering, the end-user is stuck with tools that are missing the any real business value. "[Today's] tools don't have the value-add to really save you money."

Storage networking is still in its toddler phase, but vendors are starting to see that the management challenges spawned from the introduction of NAS and SAN are not storage problems, they are networking problems.

"We're all vendors. We all need to make a living, but if users start saying 'we need a common management standard' we're going to [respond]," said Marco Coulter, divisional vice president, Computer Associates International Inc.

Storage is becoming less and less subservient to servers and this is driving the need for multiple vendors to develop a common set of tools and interfaces.

General Manager for Hewlett-Packard Co.'s, Network Storage Solutions Organization, Brice Clark, said storage vendors can learn from the networking industry. "They've had open industry standard management capabilities for years. [Networking vendors] drop everything to fix interoperability problems involving their equipment in customer environments."

"The storage industry is still trying to get its feet under its legs," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

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