SNIA adds tests for SMI-S management software

A status report on the Storage Management Initiative Specification shows steady progress on all fronts.

By John Kelly and Ray Dunn

The maturity of the SNIA’s Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) can be seen in the number of vendors participating in the Storage Management Initiative Labs (SMI-Labs) and SNIA Conformance Testing Program (SNIA-CTP). For details, visit www.snia.org.

When purchasing network management solutions, IT managers no longer give a second thought as to whether the products support the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). This will eventually be true with SMI-S in storage management solutions.

The parallels between SNMP and SMI-S mirror those between LANs and SANs. LANs were implemented before a standard method of collecting health, utilization, capacity, performance, and configuration data was available-likewise with SANs. SNMP was developed and driven by a broad industry consortium and adopted as the standard management interface for IP network devices, including switches, routers, hubs, and bridges. Similarly, SMI-S is being adopted as the management standard for SAN switches, routers, host bus adapters (HBAs), and other networked storage devices.

More than 200 products have been validated as SMI-S conformant through the SNIA-CTP. Many of these products are being used in production environments for provisioning, monitoring, and reporting on storage systems, fabric switches, HBAs, and tape libraries from a variety of vendors.

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One of the factors in the momentum behind SMI-S is the cooperative development environment. Vendors and end-user organizations have collaborated on the architecture, code, implementation, and testing to build a specification that enables vendors to create standards-based products.

This cooperation simplifies the development process of compliant products and facilitates interoperability between different vendors’ products.

An example of this collaboration is the SMI-Labs at the SNIA Technology Center in Colorado Springs. SMI-Labs programs help companies accelerate development and implementation of SMI-S-based hardware (instrumented by SMI-S “providers”) and software management products containing SMI-S “client elements.”

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SMI-S started out solving management problems at the bottom of the storage management pyramid: device management. In effect, SMI-S allows for a “Web services” interface to all devices in a storage infrastructure, providing users with a consistent mechanism for device discovery, configuration, event monitoring, and status reporting.

SMI-S also provides information about the logical components in the infrastructure, such as paths, volumes, pools, logical unit numbers (LUNs), storage network mappings, etc.

As new SMI-S-compliant devices are rolled in, using an automated discovery process, SMI-S management software automatically detects the existence and behavior of the devices based on properties and attributes reported in a standard format. Additional services such as the security of device-management communication, data replication and copy services, configuring devices, provisioning storage to applications, and enabling policies to be established for automation are being defined by SMI-S.

As performance and availability issues arise, and state changes in the infrastructure occur, the consistent end-to-end view allows administrators to isolate and identify issues that need fixing, resulting in improved availability. All this activity is performed independent of the vendor or device identity.

Other potential benefits of adopting products built on SMI-S include the following:

  • Improved availability due to a consistent standards-based interface, which minimizes operator errors;
  • Reduced training costs;
  • Increased productivity with infrastructure-wide visibility;
  • The ability to consolidate operations; and
  • Reduced administration time.

Another benefit of SMI-S is management extensibility. Although SMI-S provides a clear definition of how a storage sub-system profile should appear and behave, it also allows vendors and users to extend the model to make other related information become an integral part of the model. For instance, users can extend the model of a storage subsystem to include the cost of purchase, date of warranty expiration, location of installation, etc., by using CIM-compliant modeling semantics.

For more information on SMI-S and the SNIA Storage Management Initiative, visit www.snia.org/smi/home.

At the Storage Networking World conference in April, the SNIA and 10 storage management software vendors announced that the SMI-S “client” program was underway and tests had been established for storage management application validation.

These management applications join more than 200 SMI-S-compliant hardware products (containing “providers” that allow the products to be managed via SMI-S software) available from 17 vendors. The storage management applications will be able to discover, configure, monitor, and report on functions in a manner similar to SNMP.

Although SMI-S is based on the object-oriented information model of the CIM standard, it allows vendor extensions in a compatible manner (unlike the private MIBs of SNMP).

IT administrators need greater flexibility in choosing storage management solutions, as well as freedom to avoid the vendor “lock-in” that results from lack of interoperability between products. SMI-S will reduce management complexity and operation costs.

SNIA-CTP validation of SMI-S conformance is a significant step toward achieving simplicity and predictability in storage management. SNIA-CTP version 1 initially covered storage network switches, fabrics, and arrays and has been expanded to include testing for storage management applications. Over the next several months the SNIA is rolling out additional SNIA-CTP programs to enhance testing of SMI-S 1.1 storage products.

These tests validate conformance to SMI-S 1.1 profiles for

  • Storage arrays that perform provisioning functions;
  • Tape library discovery and asset monitoring;
  • iSCSI discovery, provisioning, and configuration;
  • NAS discovery, provisioning, and configuration; and
  • Switch and fabric configuration, and health and performance monitoring.

For more information on SNIA-CTP and a list of SMI-S-compatible vendors, go to www.snia.org/ctp/smi_conform.

Storage devices and management applications built on SMI-S enable companies to simplify storage management and give IT managers the flexibility to choose the storage resources that best meet their requirements.

The SNIA-CTP in conjunction with SMI-Labs is accelerating delivery of SMI-S-compliant products to simplify management of heterogeneous storage infrastructures.

John Kelly is marketing chair for the SNIA Storage Management Forum (www.snia.org/smi/about/smf) and director of product marketing at AppIQ. Ray Dunn is secretary of the SNIA Storage Management Forum and a marketing manager at Sun Microsystems.

SNIA-CTP: Test Suite creation cycle

  • Technical Work Group generates SMI-S profiles
  • Implemlentations are tested in SMI-Labs
  • CTP generates appropriate test architecture
  • CTP generates test specifications
  • CTP contractor creates CTP test
  • SMI-Labs runs preliminary tests and generates corrections to the tests and specifications
  • Tests become fixed
  • Vendors run final tests
  • SNIA reviews and approves test results
  • www.SNIA.org/cpt-web posts final results

This article was originally published on July 01, 2005