SMI-S 1.1 introduces value-added services

The latest version of the storage management standard includes services for data protection, security, policy management, and more.

By John Kelly and Ray Dunn

The Storage Networking Industry Association’s End User Council surveyed storage professionals last year to identify the pain points of managing storage, including the lack of integrated, interoperable solutions for managing complex, heterogeneous storage networks. In response to this need to provide better management integration of storage services, the SNIA Storage Management Initiative (SMI) is currently testing products based on the latest SMI-S version 1.1 standard, which provides higher-level integration services than previous specifications.

As vendors integrate SMI-S 1.1 into their products, end users will find capabilities that provide relief for some of the current misery encountered in establishing data-protection services.

How does it work?

Last year, the SNIA delivered the SMI-S 1.0.3 specification for managing storage devices. Storage management applications that conform to version 1.0.3 are now entering the market with service capabilities such as auto discovery, volume provisioning, and zone configuration.

In an SMI-S environment each device “advertises” itself as a “provider” that offers a consistent view of the device, regardless of manufacturer. The first version of SMI-S focused on identifying device properties and attributes so that devices could be automatically discovered and configured by a storage management application that is an SMI-S “client.”

With SMI-S v1.1, which is currently under development by SNIA, the standard delivers business value beyond management of multi-vendor devices and focuses on additional services, including data protection, security, and policy management.

To storage administrators this means that SMI-S-enabled applications will provider a richer set of functionality for storage management.

Copy Services

Within the SMI-S standard, devices and software capabilities are organized into “profiles,” which are discrete capabilities of functional areas in the specification. There are profiles for each of the device elements in a storage network, including disk arrays, switches, host bus adapters (HBAs), and tape libraries. Storage management applications with clients that use SMI-S profiles to discover and provision storage elements provide storage managers with a single interface to discover, configure, and control devices in a storage network, which means that management applications can deliver storage services through a uniform set of commands.

One SMI-S service with important data-protection ramifications is the Copy Services profile, which was demonstrated by vendors at last month’s Storage Networking World (SNW) conference. SMI-S Copy Services is the first open standard for managing data availability and movement across heterogeneous devices at the physical device and block level.

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The Copy Services profile defines a standard set of configuration and monitoring capabilities-the ingredients for managing, creating, and breaking mirrored volumes for business availability applications. By standardizing these functions, storage administrators will have more freedom in choosing devices and greater management control over their data-protection infrastructure. Furthermore, the longevity of a solution for safeguarding data is increased if the technology is independent of the specific make and model of the underlying storage systems.

One of the first steps in developing a standard is to create a consistent terminology across the industry. The standards process defines a set of common terms for functions to reduce the confusion created by vendors that typically use their own names for features such as mirrored volumes, snapshots, frozen images, clones, pipes, etc. Copy Services focuses on two primary data-protection elements:

  • Mirrors-Replica volumes that are the same size as the original volumes and may or may not be synchronized with the source volumes. A volume can be split off, or “fractured,” and detached as a backup or used as an independent source; and
  • Snapshots-Replicas that may only contain the changes that occur in source volumes and therefore may be smaller in size.

The Copy Services sub-profile includes functions to

  • Control configuration of the data source;
  • Set up the copy target;
  • Create a path between source and target;
  • Monitor and control jobs;
  • Supply methods for copy service operations; and
  • Report errors, health, and fault conditions.

Copy Services provides the ability to manage various states of synchronization between the source and the target for a set of operations depending on business requirements. These include functions that cover operations such as fracturing the copy and detaching it, or restoring the connection as needed.

Operations are controlled by programming standard methods into the providers to perform single operations such as create replica, attach or modify replica, create buffer, and create or modify replication pipe, etc.

Multiple operations are performed through the creation of standard “Recipes”-step-by-step code segments that establish a common way to accomplish tasks. For example, local replication is available from vendors participating in the SMI-Lab program, including EMC, Engenio, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, Sun, and Symantec. Management software vendors that implement this new functionality provide end users with an improved ability to protect information assets, recover from disasters, meet service level agreements (SLAs), and comply with regulations.

Besides Copy Services, SMI-S 1.1 builds on SMI-S 1.0.3 functionality by providing coverage for new devices as well as additional services. Additional SMI-S 1.1 functionality includes

Network-attached storage (NAS)-SMI-S 1.1 will provide users with the ability to create and manage file shares and monitor state changes for either self-contained NAS systems or those with external disk storage.

iSCSI-SMI-S 1.1 will provide users with the ability to discover and manage iSCSI-based storage arrays, moving SMI-S beyond Fibre Channel.

Storage Media Library (SML) management-SMI-S 1.1 improves data protection and management by introducing standards-based management of SML functions in tape libraries.

Host volume management-The new version of the specification provides enhanced ability to provide storage pool creation and monitoring, including volumes built from multiple sub-volumes.

Performance monitoring-The ability to provide element (device) performance monitoring for disk arrays, and provide data for capacity planning, performance monitoring, and troubleshooting across heterogeneous devices. This includes reporting statistics and systems metrics.

Health and fault management-IT administrators using SMI-S 1.1 will be able to “normalize” the reporting of storage resources and identify problems with devices across the SAN. This provides methods to enable proper monitoring of failed/failing devices. With this information, administrators can restore systems to full capability.

Policy services-SMI-S 1.1 also includes a mechanism for establishing rules-based automated operations across devices from different manufacturers so that when a condition happens, such as a storage pool becoming depleted, an action occurs, such as automatically provisioning additional capacity to the pool.

Security services-SMI-S 1.1 provides security capabilities that can be implemented in products by focusing on

  • Authentication of communications;
  • Confidentiality (encryption) of management data; and
  • Role-based authentication (access control).

Conformance testing

Copy Services will be included in the SNIA Conformance Testing Program (SNIA-CTP) for SMI-S 1.1. The SNIA-CTP is a testing process used to validate the implementation of storage functions and ensure they conform to the standard. This testing process is a critical building block in the effort to make multi-vendor storage products operate in a predictable manner for end users.

Products that pass the SNIA-CTP test offer increased management interoperability, thereby reducing the risk in deploying complex storage networks. For a list of products that have passed the SNIA-CTP tests, visit www.snia.org/ctp.

SMI-S benefits

The Common Information Model (CIM) standard and SMI-S simplify management of storage infrastructures. Solutions implementing SMI-S 1.1 offer users increased data protection and expanded multi-vendor storage support, as well as reduced training costs.

By selecting storage hardware that is compliant with CIM and SMI-S, and by choosing management software that monitors and manages the storage infrastructure in accordance with these standards, IT organizations can benefit from the following:

  • Flexibility-Administrators can add new storage technologies that more quickly “plug and play” to meet changing business requirements.
  • Scalability-Users can quickly increase capacity to meet data storage and data access requirements.
  • Manageability-IT efficiency and processes are maximized as a result of being able to manage heterogeneous storage infrastructures through a single, consistent user interface.
  • Lower TCO-By leveraging the CIM object models native to Windows and some Unix systems, standards-based management solutions have lower memory and agent footprints.

John Kelly is a member of the SNIA Storage Management Forum board of directors and director of product marketing at AppIQ, and Ray Dunn is a member of the SNIA board of directors and an officer with the Storage Management Forum, as well as industry standards marketing manager at Sun Microsystems.

This article was originally published on November 01, 2005