Whatever happened to SMI-S?

Rooting through the press packets and marketing materials left over from the Storage Networking World conference can sometimes help in developing story ideas, as vendors tend to include press releases from the show, technology white papers and company backgrounders. As I was flipping through the materials from the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), I came across a press release that I hadn’t noticed before and it made me wonder whatever happened to the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S).

Apparently, there have been some developments in the spec. The SNIA has made version 1.3 of the SMI-S available with support for some new features and functions. For those who don’t know, SMI-S was introduced years ago under the SNIA’s Storage Management Initiative (SMI) as an interoperable management interface for multi-vendor storage networking products.

The SMI-S describes available information from storage hardware and software to a WBEM Client from an SMI-S compliant CIM Server and an object-oriented, XML-based interface. That information provides a foundation for identifying the attributes and properties of storage devices and facilitates discovery, security, virtualization, performance, and fault reporting.

The newly available version 1.3 features new support for more advanced storage architectures and functions like storage virtualization, VTLs, SAN security and RAID controller cards. The spec also now accommodates support for Fibre Channel switches to improve SMI-S solutions by speeding up discovery and monitoring larger device configurations.

That’s fine, but how much does it really matter? The SNIA and its participating vendors have made many claims since the inception of the SMI-S project. It was supposed to be a stepping-stone to interoperability. Some even claimed that users would make SMI-S a checklist item and would eventually require it as feature of any storage device or product going forward.

I have to agree with the opinions of Jon Toigo, CEO and managing principal of Toigo Partners International. In a two-part column earlier this year for InfoStor, Toigo stated that SMI-S has not caught on in the mainstream. In fact, I think that’s an understatement.

Slowly but surely vendor noise around the spec has died down and now it seems to have completely disappeared. Mentions of SMI-S conformance have vanished from vendor PowerPoint presentations and I can’t remember the last time a storage exec highlighted SMI-S conformance as a product feature.

The SNIA has recently turned its attention to other projects like the Solid State Storage Initiative (SSSI), but SMI-S development continues to roll on. In conjunction with release of version 1.3, SNIA has also launched supporting conformance tests and the first of the SMI-S committed vendors to pass the SNIA Conformance Testing Program (SNIA-CTP) provider suite for SMI-S version 1.3 storage management include EMC, HDS and HP.

According to Paul von Behren, chair of the Storage Management Initiative Governing Board, SMI-S now “contains sufficient breadth and depth of functionality such that the Storage industry can use the technology as the reference interface for managing enterprise storage solutions.”

That may be true, but after six years of development and investment how has SMI-S changed multi-vendor storage management? Given that proprietary management software still rules the day, I’d say the SMI-S has fallen short on delivering on the promise of being a panacea for open storage management.

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posted by: Kevin Komiega

Kevin Komiega, Senior Editor
by Kevin Komiega
Senior Editor

Kevin Komiega has been the Senior Editor of InfoStor since 2005. He was previously a senior news writer with SearchStorage.com and held a position as a public relations account executive with Porter Novelli, Boston. Kevin also spent four years running tape backup operations at the University of Rhode Island's Academic Computer Center. He can be contacted at kkomiega@quinstreet.com.

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