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New SNIA Swordfish spec targets hyperscale, cloud environments

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) released Swordfish, a new specification that could ease the management of storage equipment and data services in converged, hyper-converged, hyperscale and cloud environments.

The SNIA Storage Management Initiative’s Swordfish 1.0 specification aims to simplify the provisioning, monitoring and management of block, file and object storage.

For instance, the Swordfish application programming interface (API) can associate different classes of service with storage gear of varying performance levels. An IT administrator would need only to specify the class of service to allocate storage to servers and virtual machines (VMs), rather than having to specify details on the most suitable storage array.

So far, the SNIA Swordfish specification offers extensive functionality only for block and file storage. Capabilities include the provisioning with class of service as well as replication and capacity and health metrics. Object storage support is on the Swordfish roadmap.

SNIA’s Swordfish is an extension of the server-focused Redfish API protocol and schema released about a year ago by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF). Swordfish uses the same RESTful interface over HTTPS, the JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format and the Open Data Protocol (OData).

“One of the reasons SNIA’s so interested in doing Swordfish as an extension of Redfish is that this is an industry play to wind up with a unified approach for server, storage and fabric management,” said Don Deel, chair of SNIA’s SMI governing board and NetApp’s senior standard technology.

Swordfish can work across a variety of storage network fabrics including Fibre Channel, Ethernet, SAS and PCI Express (PCIe), according to Deel.

Swordfish will eventually replace SNIA’s Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) and possibly overcome SMI-S limitations. Deel said SMI-S is an “equipment-oriented” standard that exposes what the storage gear can do. By contrast, Swordfish is a “customer-centric interface” that focuses on use cases for “what IT administrators need to do with storage in a data center on a day-to-day basis,” Deel said.

“SMI-S has a ton of functionality but it does not scale well. That is a key for plugging and playing into all of these new models,” said Richelle Ahlvers, chair of SNIA’s SSM Technical Work Group and principal storage management architect at Broadcom.

Ahlvers said the tech industry has been shifting to REST-based interfaces. SNIA partners wanted to see standards updated with a more modern interface that could play in all environments, including the emerging hyperscale and cloud scenarios. They also wanted storage management APIs that are simpler to implement and consume and accessible via a standard browser, she said.

“SMI-S and other standards, even on the server side, have been very complicated. It’s a high learning curve,” Ahlvers said

SNIA’s Scalable Storage Management (SSM) Technical Work Group formed last October to scope out the Swordfish project and drew up a charter in December. Broadcom, Dell, EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Inova, Intel, Microsoft, NetApp, Nimble Storage, and VMware are among vendors that played key roles in developing Swordfish.

The SNIA Swordfish specification is publicly available for implementation. Ahlvers said anyone with a Redfish implementation could tack on Swordfish within a few months, but those starting from scratch would need to do more work. She expects to see products and early implementations start to show up in the middle of next year.

“The key here is really going to be the client drivers,” said Ahlvers, noting the work of Intel, Microsoft and VMware. “Between those three, that’s going to be helping to pull the vendors to add support for Swordfish.”

SNIA Swordfish team members and industry experts are presenting details on the new specification at this week’s Storage Developer Conference in Santa Clara, California.