Introducing the Storage Networking Industry Association

The first in a series of articles from SNIA focuses on current activities and future initiatives.

By Larry Krantz

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Welcome to Storage Networking Industry Association's new column in InfoStor. This first installment in the series focuses on SNIA, its mission, and some of the activities currently in development.

The SNIA is intimately involved in many areas of storage networking; describing our activities is never an easy task due to the number and diversity of our efforts. A sampling of these activities would have to include disk arrays, storage area network (SAN) infrastructure, network-attached storage (NAS), CIFS, management software, virtualization, transport media, specifications, glossaries, education, and certification.

First, the basics: The SNIA is a non-profit organization, made up of more than 340 members from companies spanning the entire storage industry, and beyond. SNIA members share a common goal: to set the pace for the industry by ensuring storage networks become efficient, trusted solutions across the IT community. To this end, SNIA is committed to delivering standards, education, and services that will propel open storage networking solutions into a broad market.

SNIA's charter is to promote the use of storage networks across the IT community. Our vision is to make this happen by becoming the central forum for the storage networking industry and to

  • Accelerate the development and evolution of standards;
  • Promote the acceptance of storage networking and standards among vendors and IT professionals; and
  • Deliver education and information.

The SNIA charter goes beyond typical standards organizations. For example, it includes the promotion of storage networking-not just for the organization's members, but for the entire storage networking industry, including end users.

SNIA was initially focused primarily on technology, with technical working groups addressing issues such as interoperability and standards definitions. Over time, SNIA increasingly focused on the needs of storage networking consumers, attempting to solidify how the organization addressed the requirements of both the vendor and end-user communities.

During this time, achievements included several initiatives, white papers, publications, definitions, technical work on the SCSI third-party copy command, and Common Information Model (CIM) demonstrations. The SNIA also created the Storage Networking World conference and tradeshow, in conjunction with Computerworld, as a focal point for storage networking education.

As the organization continued to grow, end users were faced with the reality that their data storage requirements were growing at a phenomenal rate, but they could not see how to address the issues and get them under control. Storage management became the critical issue. How could the IT community possibly manage exploding storage requirements with a fixed staff? Storage networking offered a solution through storage consolidation, while also providing increased flexibility.

The SNIA helped to address these issues with concerted efforts in technical workgroups focused on management, new educational tools such as the SNIA Shared Storage Model to help explain varying implementations, tutorials addressing recovery/backup and virtualization, as well as SAN certification for individuals. All of these programs contribute to a more robust environment that will directly benefit IT consumers.

Last year, SNIA introduced forums to the structure of the organization. SNIA Forums have solidified the industry by integrating the vendor and end-user communities. This solidification allows special interest groups to take advantage of the internal structure of SNIA and to focus the majority of their energy on the promotion of a particular technology.

The IP Storage Forum was the first special interest group to take advantage of SNIA. Without the typical organizational start-up overhead, they were able to immediately focus on the different aspects of IP storage, execute events such as interoperability "plugfests," and sponsor end-user education at Storage Networking World. Forums benefit from the SNIA policies, procedures, administrative functions, and events already in place.

Also last year, the Supported Solutions Forum attracted attention from the storage networking community. A group of six large vendors banded together in an attempt to address one of the most widely discussed user concerns about storage networking: interoperability. The vendors had heard the message from users, reinforced by SNIA: Users were concerned about support from competing vendors once their storage network was installed.

The heart of the Supported Solutions Forum announcement was not the interoperability demonstration but, rather, the underlying agreement that all of the vendors agree to work in the best interest of the consumer. This should enable IT organizations to rest assured that the suppliers of their SAN hardware have agreed to work together to solve their problems.

Technology trends

Two key trends are emerging on the technology front. The first is the quest for a better interconnection scheme. Advancements continue in Fibre Channel, but new interconnection technologies are beginning to emerge. IP SANs and InfiniBand are just two of these emerging technologies that will complement, and compete with, Fibre Channel in the future.

These new technologies will enable new functionality in SANs, including (but not limited to) inter-processor communications for data sharing, increased performance, more-flexible data movement, and longer and more-reliable lines of communications.

The second major trend on the technology front is toward storage networking software. Now that an interconnection infrastructure is in place, we can focus on the real benefits of storage networking, such as software services, management, and automated policy-based operations. These areas will become the dominant focus of the storage networking community, propelling the technology beyond mere interconnection strategies into the realm of intelligent storage networking.

In the future, SNIA will continue to focus on the IT community. The vision is to become the focal point of the entire industry-the consumer advocacy organization for storage networking. SNIA will continue to gather IT professionals' input to effectively represent end-user interests.

SNIA bulletin board

Tired of feeling backup pain? Attend the Easing Backup Pain: A Backup & Restore Workshop at the SNIA Technology Center in Colorado Springs, CO, from Feb. 26-27. The workshop will showcase multi-vendor demos, tutorials, case studies, and panel discussions. Backup-and-restore expert Curtis Preston (www.storagedesigns.com) will be a keynote speaker. Register for the workshop at www.snia.org/backup-workshop.

IT professionals can validate their storage networking knowledge and expertise by taking the SNIA Fibre Channel SAN Certification exams. For information about these exams, see InfoStor, December 2001, p. 8, or check out www.2test.com.

Swap SAN stories with your peers by joining the Minnesota Open SAN User Group, an organization made up of SAN designers, managers, and users. The group is strictly an end-user organization. Learn more about the user group at www.mnopensan.org. While the organization's name is derived from where the founders are based, the group does not require that you be a local to join.

Larry Krantz is chairman emeritus and a member of the board of directors of the Storage Networking Industry Association (www.snia.org). Krantz is also a senior technologist at EMC and a member of the Corporate Technology Organization, which is responsible for the development of EMC's long-term storage strategy.

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This article was originally published on January 01, 2002