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Milk and honey: reaching the promised land of heterogeneous storage management. (Storage Networking).

WBEM, CIM, DMTF, PDP, Bluefin, SNIA and SMI are a just a handful of the many acronyms and buzzwords associated with storage industry standards. While many people are familiar with these terms in relation to storage management interoperability, others are still unclear as to what this means for the future of storage technology.

Without a doubt, the activity around industry standards presents a terrific opportunity for storage vendors, partners and customers alike. The efforts to drive open storage management solutions into real-world environments--including storage management middlewar--will accelerate the implementation of standards and help bring new technologies to market faster.

However, delivering the promise of heterogeneous storage management implies going beyond standards. It has taken years of hard work to ensure basic interoperability between all possible elements within a networked storage environment. For instance, EMC has invested upwards of $2 billion dollars in interoperability and countless hours of testing to commence the development of tools that enable seamless management of heterogeneous storage environments. These efforts must be combined with industry standards while at the same time, assimilating the technology shared between vendors and innovative engineering, such as middleware.

Basic Standards

Everything in life is governed by standards. Without them there would be no established language of measurement or currency, and no universal infrastructure of roadways, telecommunications or power grids. Even the most basic management of devices in a storage environment contains several well-known standards such as the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). But, none of the standards that exist today provide a comprehensive or functional approach to the management of networked storage environments.

To address this, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is developing a storage standard that leverages the technology known as WBEM/CIM. WBEM stands for the Web-Based Enterprise Management specification, which offers a set of common architectures to manage enterprise-computing environments. WBEM uses the Common Information Model, or CIM, as the language to describe and manage different devices in the enterprise. Using the WBEM/CIM technology, vendors will be able to develop applications that can manage multi-vendor storage networks and allow customers to build their own multi-vendor environments without worrying about management challenges.

A newest extension to WBEM/CIM is Bluefin, a specification for discovery, security, and locking features for WEEM/CIM-based storage networks. Recently, all of SNIA's efforts around WBEM, CJM and Bluefin have been incorporated into a single program, the SNIA Storage Management Initiative (SMI).

Ultimate Goal

The exchange of storage management technologies between vendors--usually in the form of Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs--offers another vehicle to drive management of heterogeneous storage environments. The benefit of well-designed, robust APIs from multiple suppliers results in the ability of leading storage vendors to incorporate various features and functionality into their products at an accelerated pace.

While recent "API Swaps" have become the topic of conversation among industry players, swaps are not the only answer to multi-vendor storage management. Leading vendors have engineered many of their software products without the exchange of APIs. Using innovative management features, these very products are capable of supporting multiple storage devices.

The ultimate goal is to deliver innovative open management technologies to customers as quickly as possible. To do so, storage vendors must look to make the most of every available avenue including: delivering comprehensive middleware technology, participating in technology exchanges, interoperability engineering with available interfaces, independent interoperability testing, and incorporating industry standards into existing technology.

Modern Engineering

Innovative engineering continues to pioneer major breakthroughs in storage. Most recently, the industry saw its first storage management middleware technology designed to provide both universal translation and access to advanced functionality for storage management applications. By integrating a range of technologies into the middleware framework--such as vendor-specific interfaces, industry standards, and interoperability engineering efforts--vendors and their developer partners can create products that manage heterogeneous environments.

Adding even greater breadth of coverage and functionality to middleware is the commitment of making all storage hardware and software products SMI-enabled. Incorporating open industry standards into middleware will offer a development tool that is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, storage management middleware allows developers to quickly and securely create applications that can manage SMI-compliant devices. And, any combination of SMI-compliant and non-compliant applications will be able to manage any combination of SMI-compliant and non-compliant devices simultaneously--paving the way for the scores of developers to easily and quickly offer next-generation solutions.

What It All Means

It is important to note that all of the efforts to deliver on the promise of heterogeneous storage management aren't about next-generation technology as much as they are about helping customers. As customers continue to adopt networked storage at a rapid pace, they're looking to leading vendors and application developers to be a step ahead in helping to simplify the management of it all.

The burden is on the entire industry to enable fast and reliable development of innovative applications that manage the diverse requirements of heterogeneous storage system, network and software elements. The combination of industry standards, technology exchanges, interoperability engineering and testing, and storage management middleware to pull it all together are bringing the industry ever closer to delivering heterogeneous storage management.

Donald S. Swatik, Ph.D., is vice president at the Global Solutions Group of EMC (Hopkinton, Mass.)
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Article Details
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Author:Swatik, Donald S.
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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