Over the years, developments like networked storage, virtualization, virtual tapes, iSCSI, and information lifecycle management have popped up with the aim of easing some of the headaches that IT managers have.
But one gets the feeling that technologies are also developing faster than IT managers can catch up. Network storage is great for centrally managing storage, but it also comes with complicated protocols, such as fiber channel, that storage administrators have to learn. Throw in a couple of other issues into the fray, such as interoperability of legacy storage systems, security, and compliance, and you can see why things need to speed up a bit when it comes to storage management.
That's where I think it's timely to do a little plug fest for the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA). For those who haven't heard, the SNIA (often pronounced as "sneer") is a trade association driven by powerful members--or the who's who--of the storage industry.
Heavyweights, from big storage iron makers like EMC, IBM, Hitachi, HP, to tape vendors like Quantum, to networking switch vendors like Cisco, Brocade, and McData, and host bus adapters makers are all in there. The good thing is, the SNIA is strictly vendor-neutral, so members have to abandon their personal agendas and get their hands dirty together on the things that really benefit the industry as a whole, like standards and certifications.
For instance, a standard that has been in the works for a few years, called the SMI-S (Storage Management Interface - Specification) has been approved by the American National Standard for Information Technology (ANSI), and the latest version, the SMI-S 1.0.3, is on track for an ISO (International Standards Organization) approval by the fourth quarter of this year.
What's significant about this initiative is that any storage hardware standardized on this specification will interoperate with each other, which means easier management for IT vendors who want the choice of buying from multiple vendors.
And in turn, interoperability means that concepts like virtualization and ILM will eventually see light of day as it helps IT managers better automate the management of storage resources better.
By the way, the SMI-S is only one of the many projects that SNIA is working on. Other initiatives include working with the Global Grid Foundation to explore the use of data storage in enterprise grids, conducting storage security forms and technical workgroups to facilitate information exchange with security professionals. There's even an open-source project, called Aperi, aimed at developing common open-source software for managing storage hardware from different vendors.
How can end-users benefit from all these?
Well, the SNIA is actually hoping to engage more end-users for education, training and certification purposes. If you're one of those lost in the storage quagmire, you can drop in on the nearest regional SNIA affiliate to find out more.