SNIA announces progress at SNW

By Ann Silverthorn

At this week's Storage Networking World (SNW) conference, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is expected to announce new specifications that have just passed SNIA approval for further development. It will also provide road-map updates for the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S).

Pledging to help answer end users' call for more flexible and manageable storage products, the SNIA will detail its work on three additional specifications: iSCSI Management API, Multipath Management API, and Common RAID Disk Data Format (DDF).

At SNW, attendees will be able to view vendor progress in technologies, specifications, and implementations using SMI-S. End users will also have an increased role in SMI-S by participating in defining the Conformance Testing Program (CTP) process, defining requirements, and benefiting from consumer education. Ray Dunn, industry standards marketing manager at Sun Microsystems and a board member of the SNIA Storage Management Forum says, "Until now, vendors were talking to vendors. Now we can translate 'vendor speak' into end-user understanding."

SMI-S v1.1, scheduled to be released this month, will expand to management services of all components in a heterogeneous storage environment, including data protection. This release will address NAS and iSCSI arrays, storage media libraries (SMLs), and host- discovered resources (HDRs). SMI-S v1.0, which was released in March 2004, focused mainly on asset management and auto discovery (SAN arrays, fabric, switches, and host bus adapters [HBAs]).

By April 2006, the SNIA plans to release SMI-S v1.2, which will be "application-aware," allowing data to be moved wherever needed based on storage-centric data life-cycle management tools.

The SNIA expects that the iSCSI Management API (IMA) will be approved next month, enabling multi-vendor iSCSI management independent of iSCSI HBA vendors. In this architecture, the IMA Common Library will contain a set of APIs to manage HBAs.

"The [IMA] library will improve time-to-market because of decreased integration and test costs," says Matthew Brisse, technology strategist in the office of the CTO at Dell and vice chair of the SNIA's board of directors. "For IT users, IMA will increase interoperability between iSCSI HBAs and iSCSI management applications through a standard interface."

The SNIA plans a membership vote to submit IMA to the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) for ANSI fast-track adoption. The organization plans a similar path for its Multipath Management API (MMA)

Multipath Management API (MMA) has also been approved as a SNIA architecture. Multipath management allows multiple I/O connections between host and device, providing redundancy and increased bandwidth. The MMA plug-in architecture allows vendors with multi-path drivers to expose management capabilities through a common API.

Brisse says MMA benefits IT users by enabling management applications to discover multi-path devices and associated local and device ports, independent of the vendor. With the active management option, it provides fail-over, load balancing, and manual path overrides.

Regarding the SNIA's Common RAID DDF, the standard has been submitted to and accepted as a project to INCITS. The SNIA's DDF standardizes the way data is distributed across drives in a RAID array.

"We all know that RAID 5 is not [the same] across vendors," says Brisse. "With DDF, we'll see vendors complying with the way that data is organized on the disks." This compliance will result in better interoperability, allowing "data-in-place" movement from RAID on the motherboard (ROMB) structures to external disks with less chance of data loss. Vendors will then certify and qualify their products to the entire specification, not just to part of it, according to Brisse. RAID 6 has just been added to the specification.

Ray Dunn says that all of the work being done by the SNIA is guided by users' top-10 pain points that were identified in its spring 2004 End User Council (EUC) survey. According to the 500 respondents, the top four were cost, growth, manageability, and interoperability.

Dunn says, "We use the EUC survey as our litmus test for the work we're doing. We continually ask ourselves, 'How does this relate to the EUC pain points?' " At next week's SNW, a new survey will focus specifically on storage challenges facing end users today.

This article was originally published on April 14, 2005