'Bluefin' to provide standard SAN management interface

By Roger Reich

The industry is primed to tackle issues surrounding storage management-one of the top concerns of storage users today. For example, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) recently announced the launch of the Storage Management Initiative (SMI), a program dedicated to developing a storage management standard. At the heart of SMI is the Bluefin specification.

The Bluefin specification for storage area network (SAN) management began years ago, when SANs had just emerged and multi-vendor interoperability problems loomed large. At the time, no standard interface existed to allow products from multiple vendors to reliably interoperate for the purpose of monitoring and controlling resources in a storage network. Interface technology at the time (developed primarily for the networking, or "pre-SAN," industry) was unable to provide reliable and secure control of resources in complex, heterogeneous SANs. And no single vendor was capable of driving a de facto interface for SAN management.

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In 2000, the Partner Development Program (PDP) consortium was established, with 17 member companies: BMC Software, Brocade, Computer Associates, Compaq, Dell, EMC, Emulex, Gadzoox, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, JNI, Prisa Networks, QLogic, StorageTek, Sun, and Veritas. This consortium began work on a specification code-named "Bluefin." The objective was to create a standard that would be transferred to the SNIA for completion.

The PDP group embraced a new object-oriented interface technology, called Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM), being developed by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) as a foundation for Bluefin. The object model that will be expressed through the WBEM architecture is an extension of the Common Information Model (CIM), also developed by the DMTF.

The Bluefin specification will help to accelerate work completed by the DMTF and SNIA. The SNIA's Disk Resource Management (DRM) Technical Working Group has laid the groundwork for developing CIM/WBEM technology for use in vendor products and held its first public demonstration of storage management using the technology in 1999.

For end users, the standard that evolves from Bluefin will

  • Enable the integration of multi-vendor hardware and software in a SAN;
  • Reduce the cost of storage management; and
  • Enable administrators to manage multi-vendor SANs through a single console, rather than a collection of disparate applications.

For SAN hardware and software vendors, there will be two key benefits:

  • SAN adoption will grow faster. The key value proposition for SANs is the ability to consolidate multi-vendor storage and computing platforms and to leverage resource sharing. Without an interoperable management interface, the fundamental value proposition of increased resource sharing falls to pieces; and
  • More functional SAN management applications will be built with faster time-to-market. Today, SAN management developers are forced to integrate the incompatible interfaces of different vendors into "least-common-denominator" management products.

At 350 pages, the Bluefin specification is a breakthrough for the storage network industry. However, key components of the spec (such as cascaded clients and non-Fibre Channel-based data transports) have yet to be completed; conformance tests need to be written/administrated; open-source software libraries need to be augmented to ease vendor implementation; and vendors need to learn CIM/WBEM and implement the eventual SMI standard in their products.

The rollout of the SMI standard into the industry will take as much time and effort as other strategic interfaces such as SCSI, but will benefit both end users and vendors. The success of the standard will be based largely on the decision to use CIM/WBEM technology and its established base of open-source software. CIM/WBEM is emerging as the first common enterprise systems management backbone, and it will fuel adoption of the SMI standard as the first industry standard SAN management interface. Bluefin is proof that vendors can put aside their differences in a highly competitive environment and solve complex technical problems to bring end users increased value.

On the horizon

The SNIA and PDP group have collaborated on a plan to integrate the Bluefin specification into the association's existing storage management work. The SNIA's board of directors, technical council, and technical working groups conducted a formal review of the specification in June. They created a plan that outlines how Bluefin will be used as the cornerstone for developing a complete management specification and how SNIA will promote the resulting management interface to vendors and end users.

Another key step in fueling adoption of CIM/WBEM and Bluefin are the "plugfests" and interoperability demonstrations being conducted by the SNIA. For example, at the Storage Networking World conference held last April in Palm Desert, CA, 13 SNIA member companies banded together to publicly demonstrate interoperability of early WBEM-based products. The SNIA will extend this demonstration at the October Storage Networking World Conference, in Orlando, with the CIM-SAN-1 demonstration.

CIM-SAN-1 will be the first public demonstration of a SAN being completely managed through CIM/WBEM/Bluefin technology. Host bus adapters, switches, routers, disk arrays, and management software will all be integrated through the WBEM/Bluefin architecture.

For more information about SMI and the Bluefin draft specification, visit www.snia.org/bluefin.

Roger Reich is the chairman of the SMI Committee and the senior technical director at Veritas Software.

SNW Fall 2002

Storage Networking World Fall 2002 will take place October 27-30 in Orlando, FL. The conference focuses on the rapid growth of user implementation of storage networking technologies. Pre-conference tutorials examine disaster recovery, virtualization, securing and managing storage networks, networked storage, and IP-based storage. One of the event's highlights is the Interoperability and Solutions Demo, organized by more than 50 Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) member companies. The demo will showcase storage networking configurations that address end users' storage concerns and will feature solutions for backup and recovery, storage networking infrastructure design, storage virtualization, and management of storage networks. For more information, visit www.snwusa.com.

This article was originally published on September 01, 2002