Bluefin to cure storage headaches
Integrators must wait for new SAN standard to take hold
- By Joab Jackson
- Oct 04, 2002
Last summer's ratification of the Bluefin specification by the Storage Networking
Industry Association set the path for much-needed improvements in storage area network
management.While it likely will take several years for vendors to
make their product interfaces compatible with the new standard, SNIA's endorsement is
significant, because "Bluefin literally creates the [SAN] integration market,"
said Roger Reich, chairman of the SNIA committee that adopted Bluefin, and senior
technical director for interface standards at Veritas Software Corp., Mountain View,
Calif.The Bluefin interface assures that integrators can pick and
choose the best hardware and management software without fear of being locked into one
solution or leaving customers with a system that can't be updated. "An
integrator can go to six different vendors and get a management appliance of their choice
to insert into their SAN," Reich said.The SNIA announced
Aug. 12 that it would adopt Bluefin for its Storage Management Initiative, or SMI, a
program to develop open storage management interfaces. Because
there have been a number of competing initiatives to create a SAN management standard --
the WideSky initiative spearheaded by EMC Corp., Hopkinton, Mass., for instance -- the
SNIA endorsement signaled to SAN product vendors how to direct their product development:
Components must speak Bluefin to play in the enterprise-level space.
SIZE="2">Over the past few years, Bluefin was developed by some of the biggest players in
the field, including BMC Software Inc., Houston; Computer Associates International Inc.,
Islandia, N.Y.; Dell Computer Corp., Round Rock, Texas; EMC; Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo
Alto., Calif.; IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.; Sun Microsystems Inc., Palo Alto and Veritas."That SNIA endorsed Bluefin is a real statement to the industry,"
said Bill Peldzus, a storage expert with the consulting practice of storage media provider
Imation Corp., Oakdale, Minn. Though fiercely competitive, vendors
of storage area networking solutions have long agreed that a common standard is needed to
allow their customers to easily discover, manage and monitor devices on a storage network.Management software that allows organizations to manage multiple components
in diverse storage area networks are offered by companies such as Computer Associates, EMC
and Veritas. But vendors need a common platform that encompasses a wider range of
products. And customers need management platforms that can handle larger and ever-more
heterogeneous environments.That there is no agreed-upon standard
interface for devices and software in a SAN to interoperate across produces untold
headaches for the integrator trying to build a large-scale SAN, Reich said.
SIZE="2">"A switch vendor may have a great tool for supporting its switch," but
a system administrator has to worry about the entire network, Peldzus said.<>
SIZE="2">Even a simple SAN can have a large number of different components, such as a
server, host bus adapter, switch, storage disk, tape library, tape drive, backup software,
application software and database software."You multiply
these devices by the number of different vendors that are supplying these components, and
you end up with management applications that are a mess, that have poor functionality,
reliability and security," Reich said.To get SAN components
speaking the same language, the Bluefin initiative uses open Web-based standards now
prevalent across both the commercial and government sectors. Bluefin
was built from the Distributed Management Task Force's Web-Based Enterprise Management
architecture, which provides the foundation for offering services over the Web. It also
draws from the Common Information Model, a schema for allowing management software to
interoperate. "If storage management companies build their
software using these standards, [their devices] will be able to communicate with each
other's system management platforms," said Bob Iacono, vice president of marketing
for Santa Clara, Calif-based Auspex Systems Inc., a manufacturer of SAN-network attached
storage gateways. However, even as SAN companies embrace the SNIA
initiative, their own products won't be Bluefin-compliant for a few years.
SIZE="2">"The challenge now facing the industry is the broad adoption of Bluefin in
shipping products, as well as the refinement and expansion of the specification,"
Reich said.It may be some time, however, before integrators will
see the fruits from Bluefin. Although a tool for mapping legacy storage devices onto
Bluefin-compliant interfaces, called the CIM Object Manager, is freely available online at
sourceforge.org and opengroup.org, Bluefin has yet to get to the marketplace.
SIZE="2">Indeed, the latest releases of SAN management software have not been built from
the Bluefin specification. Instead, companies rely on the time- and resource-consuming
task of establishing individual agreements with other vendors to swap application program
interfaces, or APIs. In August, Hewlett-Packard agreed with an API
swap with Hitachi Ltd., Toyko. "This API exchange is a short-term solution, which
will shortly be followed by our CIM-based products," said Naoya Takahashi, the
division president of disk array systems for Hitachi.Computer
Associates has a similar arrangement with many of the vendors it covers with its
BrightStor storage management portal. The latest version, released Sept. 23, can manage
devices from numerous vendors. The API agreements were made individually through
partnerships with product vendors, said Gary McGuire, senior vice president in charge of
the product line. Likewise, the latest version of its storage
infrastructure management software offered by Veritas, SANPoint Control, draws APIs from
53 vendor partnerships, said Jonathan Martin, director of product management for Veritas.
However, the company is planning to offer CIM and Bluefin-enabled products within the next
year. "A lot of these standards are still working themselves
out. We are continuing to watch them. As they solidify and come to market, we'll
incorporate them into Veritas technology," Martin said.All
of which means it may take several years for Bluefin to work itself into the marketplace."In the long term, it will be extremely practical. But in the near
term, Bluefin is not really practical yet," Iacono said. Solutions that exist today
only allow limited connectivity with only very crude monitoring capabilities.
SIZE="2">"I'm going to take a wait-and-see stance. It's still being mapped out.
Bluefin is still in the PowerPoint stages." Peldzus said. *Staff
Writer Joab Jackson can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org.On Sept. 4, the Storage Networking
Industry Association completed the standard for the Internet Small Computer Systems
Interface, or iSCSI. The standardization of this promising, though still emerging,
technology may help integrators cut costs for building storage area networks.
SIZE="2">Since it is based on the Internet protocol, the iSCSI standard allows a SAN to
run over an existing enterprise network, eliminating the cost of building a separate
physical SAN infrastructure, said Bill Peldzus, a storage expert with storage media
provider Imation Corp., Oakdale, Minn. "It's an emerging
marketplace," Peldzus said.Although iSCSI products have been
available for some time, integrators can expect to see a much larger range of products by
late 2002 and early 2003, according to the SNIA announcement."Our
members can now develop their IP storage solutions, enabling the convergence of storage
and networking using iSCSI as the magic ingredient of convergence," said Ahmad Zamer,
chairman of the SNIA iSCSI Group.Peldzus warned that using iSCSI
for a SAN requires a high-speed Internet protocol network already in place, such as one
running over Gigabit Ethernet -- something not all agencies may have in place.
SIZE="2">"Customers have Ethernet today, but they may not have Gigabit Ethernet. If
you don't have Gigabit Ethernet, IP storage would not work as well," Peldzus said.
Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.