The immaturity of the specifications is enough to keep SMI-S off the radar for many customers. “I wouldn't say [SMI-S] is one of our top priorities to have,” says Quicken Loans’ Roemmele. “We really just haven't found a specific need where it has to be at this point.”
To help fill the void for customers who do require SMI-S support, however, AppIQ has developed “wrapper” technology, which translates the APIs for storage hardware from many vendors into SMI-S.
Crosswalk’s McDonnell is optimistic that things will continue to improve, as long as end-users and resellers push for support of the SMI-S specification. “There’s no excuse for vendors with new storage products to create proprietary management interfaces,” he says. “They should support CIM and SMI-S.”
Plan of Attack
Of course, organizations are already taking advantage of the inventory and management capabilities in existing SAN management tools. Just having a clear picture of where your storage is and how much of it is being utilized can produce significant benefits (see “Creating Order From Chaos”).
“It's really geared toward having information at hand as quick as possible, without having to make an excuse -- that we've got to get it from tape, or we have a down drive on one system and we have to get information restored from tape, or anything like that,” says Quicken Loans’ Roemmele.
At the moment, available management platforms allow admins to perform basic management of a fairly wide variety of SAN hardware. Will it be possible one day to manage data services such as replication, virtualization, and ILM, as well? As long as everyone in the industry continues to support SMI-S and implement the newer versions of the specification as they are ratified, the answer should be yes.
For now, managing a SAN is a matter of matching the components you have with the components that the management platforms support, adding in point solutions where necessary, and working to integrate the whole. More ambitious capabilities, such as ILM, will continue to be difficult to implement until the SMI-S 1.2 spec is ratified and integrated into management platforms -- probably in two or three years. When that happens, getting a clear picture of a heterogeneous data network should be a much simpler matter.
Until then, you’ll see a lot of parallel development from all vendors, with storage hardware and applications based on proprietary management protocols but including hooks for SMI-S support. For the long term, increased standardization will simplify integration, which in turn should drive down prices for management components.
As storage components become increasingly standardized, you might expect industry consolidation to follow -- but don’t count on it. In a market that offers commonplace, widely understood APIs, even small companies will be able to produce innovative storage products that easily integrate into the overall data-storage network. If most applications are able to pass data back and forth, such environments will be much easier to maintain.
One consistent theme you’ll hear from storage vendors is that they support interoperability standards such as SMI-S because their customers are demanding it. As long as that demand continues, the vendors will continue to move toward a truly interoperable SAN environment.
Read more about storage in InfoWorld's Storage Channel.