SNIA Updates Storage Management Initiative

SPECIAL REPORT: Storage Management

By Barbara DePompa, 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media

Storage Management Components 

Storage management software can monitor storage subsystems, automate routine configuration tasks and, in some cases, facilitate movement of data across the storage infrastructure to meet predetermined policies. Typically, storage administrators use management software tools to organize and track email and other data types, using tools to help locate data, move aging data between storage
systems and search for relevant data as required. Archiving systems can accommodate long-term data storage, preserving important records on disk, tape or other media. Archiving software provides the retention and search capabilities, while e-discovery tools can help quickly locate and secure files to meet federal security compliance requirements. IT organizations must consider the following components to better manage storage: 

*Policy management – to map operational rules to data and storage, report on and forecast infrastructure trends and impose process conformance as changes occur.

*Data Management – to enable data provisioning and security protection based on criteria such as hosting costs, protection, preservation, retention requirements.

* Capacity Management – to allocate capacity efficiently, before buying more storage.

* Configuration Management –  to perform hardware asset discovery and configuration, optimize interconnections between servers and storage devices, and set up status monitoring, maintenance and troubleshooting facilities.

The Storage Networking Industry Association's Storage Management Initiative (SMI) seeks to foster the development of an extensible, interoperable, open and functional interface for storage management.

So far, SNIA has delivered an interface, called SMI-S, short for the Storage Management Initiative Specification. Many of the computer industry's largest suppliers and a number of federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Commerce among others are members of the SNIA, supporting the SMI-S as a path to building some form of heterogeneous storage management support.

The big question surrounding SNIA's SMI effort is how well this evolving standard has performed for heterogeneous storage infrastructure management? So far, it seems the answer is not that well. While the major industry storage suppliers promise end-to-end storage management, federal IT organizations still find it difficult to manage more than one vendor's brand of storage.

If providing inclusive, heterogeneous management, enabled via standards such as SNIA's SMI-S effort is an overarching goal, SMI-S has yet to deliver on unified storage management. Instead, storage industry experts, such as Jon Toigo, founder and chairman of the Data Management Institute and CEO of storage consultancy Toigo Partners International, reported recently that SMI-S is hobbled by weak execution. In his
opinion, interfaces must be easier to deploy, incorporating higher quality and a more robust implementation. Current SRM interfaces have wildly differing degrees of functionality and usually render storage management software an efficiency drag on IT shops that must cope with multivendor storage configurations. Toigo expects some vendors may eventually offer “hooks” ranging from proprietary APIs to SNMP MIBs. So far, however, most storage industry suppliers remain reluctant to provide open management interfaces that would contribute to the commoditization of storage gear, he explained.

Ultimately, industry trends such as consolidation and virtualization technologies definitely help underscore the merits of centralized management. Toigo maintains that IT organizations must assert more pressure on storage suppliers to demand open, industry standards. A lack of definitive surveys or empirical analysis supporting cost savings and efficiency improvements only makes it more difficult to promote the need for greater interoperability in storage management solutions, Toigo explained.