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The Storage Networking Industry Association's (SNIA) Storage Network Management Working Group (SNMWG) is chartered to identify, define, and support open standards needed to address the increased management requirements dictated by storage area network environments. The Fibre Channel sub-group of the SNMWG is further focused to address the management of Fibre Channel Storage Area Networks. During the next year, the SNMWG-FC working group intends to provide the following:

1. Coordinate efforts with the other sub-groups of the SNMWG.

2. Coordinate the development of appropriate Fibre Channel Management Information Bases (MIBs) and map them into CIM.

3. Develop a SAN Management Architecture specification.

4. Provide implementation guides based on the SAN Management Architecture specification.

5. Standardize the host bus adapter (HBA) management in CIM.

Managing A Fibre Channel Storage Area Network

The emergence of Storage Area Networks (SANs) has created the need for new storage management tools and capabilities. While SANs provide many benefits, such as lower cost of ownership and increased configuration flexibility, SANs are more complex than traditional storage environments. This inherent complexity associated with storage area networks creates new storage management challenges.

The prominent technology for implementing storage area networks is Fibre Channel. Fibre Channel technology offers a variety of topologies and capabilities for interconnecting storage devices, subsystems, and server systems. These varying topologies and capabilities allow SANs to be designed and implemented that range from simple to complex configurations. Due to the potential complexity and diverse configurations of the Fibre Channel SAN environment, new management services, policies, and capabilities need to be identified and addressed.

The Fibre Channel SAN Environment

Historically in storage environments, physical interfaces to storage consisted of parallel SCSI channels supporting a small number of SCSI devices. With Fibre Channel, the technology provides a means to implement robust storage area networks that may consist of hundreds of devices. Fibre Channel SANs yield a capability that supports high bandwidth storage traffic on the order of 100MB/sec. Enhancements to the Fibre Channel standard will support even higher bandwidth in the near future. Depending on the implementation, several different components can be used to build a Fibre Channel storage area network. The Fibre Channel SAN consists of components such as storage subsystems, storage devices, and server systems that are attached to a Fibre Channel network using Fibre Channel adapters. Fibre Channel networks in turn may be composed of many different types of interconnect entities. Examples of interconnect entities are switches, hubs, and bridges.

Fibre Channel networks can be built of varying scale. In smaller SAN environments, Fibre Channel arbitrated-loop topologies employ hub and bridge products. As SANs increase in size and complexity to address flexibility and availability, Fibre Channel switches may be introduced. Each of the components that compose a Fibre Channel SAN must provide an individual management capability, and participate in an often complex management environment.

Fibre Channel SAN Management Challenges

The basic management challenge stems from the fact that Fibre Channel SANs utilize a complex network for interconnecting storage devices and server systems. This network is potentially made up of multiple components that have both physical and logical relationships to one another. A breakdown in one component or link in the SAN may manifest itself differently depending on the component that recognizes the condition. However, since a SAN is a network, we can benefit by discussing the management challenges in terms of the basic systems management disciplines.

Probably the greatest challenge involves the configuration management of SANs. Due to the large number of components, and the multitude of physical and logical relationships to one another, robust configuration capabilities must be provided for the Fibre Channel SAN. There will be tradeoffs between keeping track of configuration information within the Fibre Channel network, or forcing a central management platform to ascertain Fibre Channel network topology using management mechanisms such as configuration files, name services, and SNMP interactions.

There are also challenges associated with performance management of SANs. Performance information must be provided at a component level as well as an overall system level. Tools and capabilities must exist that again correlate data from a variety of components to provide a system level view of the overall SAN's performance.

Common capabilities must be provided to allow software and firmware updates to be managed from a central management station. These capabilities should allow a generic mechanism to transport updates to components from different vendors.

There are also challenges with the support of accounting or asset management. Capabilities such as standardized SAN resource identifiers containing asset information must be defined. In addition, a common mechanism must be provided to obtain the asset information from SAN resources.
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Title Annotation:Industry Trend or Event; Storage Networking Industry Association's group
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Date:Sep 1, 1999
Next Article:Storage Network Management Working Group.

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