SMI-S standard promotes storage interoperability

Upcoming drafts will add new features, information life-cycle support

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) was formed with the aim of developing standards for storage hardware and software. One of its most prominent efforts to date has been SMI-S, the Storage Management Interface Specification. SNIA ratified SMI-S 1.0 in July 2003 and it was approved as an ANSI standard in October 2004 (and should soon be approved by ISO).

This initial version of the specification covers communication between hardware and management applications, allowing management of any compliant HBA, switch, RAID array, and so on. As of April 2005, SAN-management applications are starting SNIA conformance testing with SMI-S for discovery of arrays, switches, fabrics, tape libraries, and HBAs, including asset management and reporting on the properties of SAN devices.

According to Ray Dunn, industry standards marketing manager at SNIA, the 1.1 version will add a variety of services, including tracking replication, mirroring and other data-duplication functions at the block level, support for the iSCSI and FCoIP (Fibre Channel over IP) protocols, and management of NAS. The revision will include more file- and data-management functions, including enabling file shares, change management, host-volume management, creation of storage pools in SAN arrays or NAS devices, and provisioning of volumes.

Additional features, including performance monitoring to track I/O across heterogeneous SANs, health and fault management, normalized alerts, state changes, and error messages will make it easier to find and fix problems across a heterogeneous SAN. Policy management with rules-based automated operations (to create new LUNs as needed, for example, with the appropriate RAID level and security) and security enhancements such as role-based authentication, identity management, and provisions for encryption of management traffic and data streams, will also be added.

SNIA plans to submit the 1.1 version of the specification to ANSI in the third quarter of this year. In addition, Dunn says that by the 1.2 version of the specification, we’ll see services added to SMI-S that will enable ILM (information lifecycle management). In addition, SMI-S is extensible, so vendors can develop new features independently, and then work to add support for those capabilities into future versions of the specification.