Primary areas of focus include standards, security, data management, and end-user education.
By Wayne A. Adams and Ray Dunn
This article reviews key activities and initiatives that the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) will be concentrating on this year.
Standards that drive the benefits of storage networks to end users and streamline the development process for vendors will remain core activities in 2006. Today, the standards pipeline includes four specifications: Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), Disk Data Format (DDF) API version 1.1, iSCSI Management API 1.0, and Multipath Management API 1.0.
The most visible standard, the SMI-S, continues to gain momentum. With version 1.0.2 approved by ANSI as an industry standard, the SNIA is moving forward with plans to receive ISO approval in 2006. Additionally, work on SMI-S 1.1 is under way, with products from more than 30 vendors implementing this version and preparing for compliance testing. Functionality in SMI-S 1.1 includes NAS and iSCSI support, tape library management, host volume management, performance monitoring, health and fault monitoring, policy services, and copy services.
SMI-S version 1.2 is in the early stages of the definition phase, with a 12-month goal for standardizing each major version.
The SNIA also expects to submit the Disk Data Format (DDF) API version 1.1 specification, as well as the iSCSI Management API 1.0 and Multipath Management API 1.0 spec, to the INCITS for standardization. This submission will help speed the process for standardization by ANSI and deliver increased management interoperability.
In late 2005, the SNIA accepted a new proposed specification for review that is aimed at providing an application-level interface for fixed-content or reference-information storage systems, such as content-aware storage. The SNIA’s Technical Council and a working group are reviewing the specification and plan to incorporate it into the association’s ongoing standards development efforts.
Information security continues to be a hot topic for all aspects of IT, and the SNIA is working to develop storage security awareness and to provide practical guidance.
The SNIA’s Storage Security Industry Forum (SSIF) will focus on extending current storage security requirements and best practices. SSIF activities will include the perspectives and needs of chief security officers, chief compliance officers, and auditors. These professionals need to understand that if storage administrators do not follow best practices their storage infrastructure and compliance initiatives will be at risk.
Our goal is to identify requirements, as well as process and product guidelines to mitigate risk. In this effort, process is more important than product. Business people need to document their risk management requirements so storage professionals can apply appropriate techniques to mitigate business and technical risk. Security professionals and auditors need to understand storage security issues so they can appropriately assess the environment and close the gaps. To provide the industry with a global perspective, the SSIF’s documents will cover international laws and requirements as well as those in the US.
The SSIF expects to release extended documents in April that will provide guidance on what security services are necessary to ensure compliance and will provide details on what data users should secure and how they should do it. The SSIF will also continue its “live” security summits.
Continuing its efforts to reach out to the university community, the SSIF is offering a $5,000 award for the best storage security white paper. Papers are due by April 15.
Finally, the SSIF will offer vendors the opportunity to demonstrate the security level of their products using a process similar to the SNIA-CTP program.
The SNIA’s Data Management Forum (DMF) is pushing beyond the storage industry to further address the requirements of specific markets such as legal, government, and others.
The DMF will continue to develop standards and best practices for information management based on several existing initiatives that will be propelled forward in 2006. These efforts include
- The Information Classification Task Force, an international team working on best practices and requirements for the initial classification stage of information lifecycle management (ILM);
- The 100-Year Archive Task Force, also an international team, is working on best practices for the storage methods, practices, and standards associated with very-long-term electronic retention (online archive); and
- Extending the SMI-S standard to data, information, and security services. ILM-based practices promise to simplify operations and significantly reduce operating costs.
The SNIA Continuous Data Protection (CDP) Special Interest Group (SIG) will continue its education initiatives to help shift the industry’s thinking from backup toward recovery and continuous operations through a variety of activities focusing on CDP.
The DMF will be the primary driver of a new application-level interface, coordinating information metadata between applications and storage systems to enable automation of ILM-based practices. The objectives of this application interface are to achieve application-to-storage transparency across a wide range of storage systems (from active storage to long-term online record retention) with security and interoperability between storage systems.
The DMF has also created the Enterprise Information World (EIW) conference and tradeshow. The event will be held February 28 to March 2 and is being co-marketed with ARMA International. For more information, visit www.enterpriseinformationworld.com.
Education and training
The SNIA has trained more than 10,000 storage professionals over the last four years. Providing vendor-neutral training and certification, the association will focus on global expansion of its Storage Networking Certification and Education program.
To this end, the Education Committee is defining standards and guidelines for a SNIA Approved Curriculum and Training Partner program. These programs will allow training providers worldwide to join the association in offering vendor-neutral education and prepare storage professionals for accreditation under the Storage Networking Certification Program. The SNIA will deliver its 1,000th certification in early 2006.
To deliver storage networks as complete and trusted solutions, those networks must be integrated with technologies and standards being driven by a range of different associations and initiatives. The SNIA Strategic Alliances Program encompasses any pertinent technical, educational, and promotional activities that would support SNIA efforts for the data storage industry.
For example, the SNIA will continue to work closely with the Distributed Management Task Force, which is driving the CIM/WBEM standards. This collaboration will help ensure there is a strong bond between the SMI-S standard and DMTF’s activities. The SNIA is also pursuing work with INCITS to streamline the standardization processes involving ANSI and ISO.
The SNIA also plans a number of alliances in areas such as grid-based architectures and data/records management.
The SNIA’s focus on end users remains a top priority. The End User Council (EUC), for example, continues to provide the association with input for its initiatives and activities.
The EUC will continue to deliver hands-on training and development opportunities at Storage Networking World conferences throughout the world and will continue to host labs at industry events. These Hands-On Labs provide users with an opportunity to learn firsthand the latest technologies, trends, and opportunities related to storage interoperability. In 2006, the labs will focus on IP Storage, SMI-S, storage resource management (SRM), and virtualization.
Additionally, users are getting more and more involved in the SNIA’s Technical Working Groups by providing requirements and guidance on technologies and standards.
An example of the EUC’s efforts includes the recent release of its second research study focused on exploring the state of storage management. The survey examined trends that will help the association prioritize the most important issues facing storage networking users.
There are a variety of ways to get involved in these and many other activities on tap for 2006. For more information, visit www.snia.org.
Wayne A. Adams is chairman and Ray Dunn is vice chairman of the Storage Networking Industry Association.