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WBEM can ease SAN management

What it is and what it will do.

In the next year or so SAN administrators will begin encountering "WBEM-compliant" or "Bluefin-compliant" products. Essentially the terms will mean the same thing: easier and more effective SAN administration through universal information sharing among storage devices and systems. You need to know about this new initiative so you're up-to-speed when you run into it.

WBEM is the acronym for Web-based Enterprise Management, a set of management information standards being developed by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) ( to standardize processes and information formats in managing distributed systems. As part of the process, the WEBM initiative includes the CIM standard data model, which provides a common format for collecting and managing data for storage devices, among other things.

Recently the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) has signed on to help produce a storage-management specification code-named BlueFin, which, it hopes, will provide a single standardized way to collect and present information for storage management.

The idea is that if storage devices, switches and other parts of a storage network present information on themselves and their performance in a standardized fashion, it will be easier for storage-management software to collect and analyze it. Currently storage devices are a tower of Babel, with most companies collecting and presenting the information in their own way. That means that the management-software companies have to write many different interfaces just to cover the most popular products in the SAN market.

Although WBEM shares goals with the Simple Object Application Protocol (SOAP) backed by Microsoft and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), it is more comprehensive. SOAP is essentially a standardized way of passing messages among components of a system. In this it is more nearly the equivalent of the CIM, which is only part of WBEM. WBEM offers a complete framework for managing storage, including a data model and standard definitions and services for devices.

Today WBEM for storage is something more than pie in the sky and something less than shipping products. At this year's Storage Networking World Conference, SNIA members demonstrated storage management using CIM in the interoperability lab. Currently the focus of the BlueFin effort is to create a transition plan covering incorporating WBEM into SNIA technical and marketing efforts. The plan is due to be completed this month.

On the plus side, however, DMTF has been working on developing standards such as CIM for over a decade and had made considerable progress on WBEM over the last several years. Also, the need for such a standard is clearly enormous and the major storage players, such as EMC and IBM are clearly feeling the pressure from their customers. As a result the BlueFin standard is almost certain to be fast-tracked and reports in the trade press indicate we will see the first compliant products within a year.

For SNIA's take on CIM, see the white paper "Managing Fabrics Using CIM -- The Evolution" on the SNIA site.

For information on WBEM, see:

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

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