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SNIA 'SNIFs' out a new plan

Despite the fact that storage is a necessity, it doesn't sell itself, especially when it comes to new technologies. New technologies need standards say experts as well as users. But, standards are as much about technology as they are politics.

One of the most influential standards groups, The Storage Networking Industry Association, passed a motion last week to address this issue and the result was a new class, or group created within the SNIA called the SNIA Industry Forum or SNIF. The goal of which, according to SNIA, is to create a place within the organization where storage vendors can get together and work from a marketing standpoint.

SearchStorage asked Tom Clark, director of technical marketing for Nishan Systems and newly elected member of the Board of Directors of the SNIA, and co-chair of the SNIA Interoperability Committee about this new forum and explain why he so confident this forum is going to come up smelling like roses.

What technologies will the first SNIA SNIF cover?
The first proposed SNIF, organized around IP storage, will be very instructive for everyone, including the board. There is already a lot of sentiment to broaden the scope of this SNIF to all vendors working on block storage over IP solutions. This is a positive sign, and more reflective of the open culture we've created within the SNIA itself. What prompted the creation of SNIFs?
SNIA has organized SNIFs so that new initiatives within the storage networking space can more quickly organize without having to create separate industry associations. SNIA already has the incorporation, intellectual property clauses, legal, management and financial infrastructure in place, and, in addition, is already charged with the task of promoting the adoption of all storage networking technologies. It's the natural habitat for anyone working on networked storage solutions. How can SNIFs accelerate the process of getting working standards to the end-user?
There are actually 3 tracks for standards development. First, standards bodies like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and ANSI do the real work of formulating and approving standards. Secondly, technical groups provide overall requirements for standards, and then hand those over to the appropriate standards bodies (IETF, ANSI, etc.). For example, the SNIA has Technical Work Groups that generate requirements for standards relating to backup, management, policies, and so on. These groups are not standards-approval bodies, but provide input to them. SNIA will also be creating Technical Work Groups for IP storage initiatives. Lastly is the marketing/promotion of standards-based technologies. This is the purpose of the new SNIFs within SNIA. Because new technologies are still in a standards development phase, we do not limit the SNIFs to areas that already have formal standards approval. The requirement is that the technology is on a standards track (i.e. proposals have been submitted, discussions are occurring in the relevant standards forums, standards work is being done). When you go up to the application level, we may have SNIFs around areas such as storage virtualization that may not have a unique standards platform. It is assumed, however, that the applications are compliant with an underlying, standards-based infrastructure. What specific activities will the SNIFs undertake? What are the costs?
The benefits are clear. The SNIF can promote itself create collateral materials (web pages, logos, etc.), create policies and muster members using the existing SNIA infrastructure. The idea is to set up an organization within the SNIA to go off and market and promote as if they were a separate entity. SNIFs require SNIA membership and there will be a fee associated with it. We still need to decide the budget, fees, depending on the load it puts on the SNIA's resources. We need to define the scope of the technology and the market we intend to address. So the SNIFs complement the Technical Workgroups?
The purpose of the Technical Work Groups is to help accelerate standards formulation. The purpose of the designated SNIF is to promote customer awareness of these standards-based initiatives, market the benefits and accelerate the adoption of the technology. Customer interest should, in turn, reinforce and energize the efforts of the Technical Work Groups and standards bodies. That's the holistic good intention, anyway. What is a SNIA Industry Forum?
A SNIA Industry Forum (SNIF) is a marketing/promotional entity within SNIA for specific storage networking technologies. SNIFs do not work on standards. Standards activity within SNIA is done by the technical work groups, which formulate standards requirements and provide input to the appropriate standards bodies (e.g. ANSI or IETF). SNIFs will provide autonomy within SNIA for marketing and promotional activity around specific technology issues. So for example, a SNIF organized around Storage Virtualization would be able to put together it's own marketing collateral, sponsor or appear in events under the SNIA logo, hire its own consultants, etc. from its own budget, without constant signoff from the SNIA board. The board will, however, monitor SNIF activity.

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