Bluefin: Blueprint for storage control

Analysis: Storage vendors efforts to reconcile storage hardware differences has spawned the Bluefin specification. Todd Volz describes how this cooperative venture is trying to encourage effective storage management.

As storage requirements continue to grow, enterprises are more likely to deploy storage hardware from more than just a single vendor in order to meet specific needs.

With these multi-vendor storage environments proliferating, the issue of management interoperability in heterogeneous storage area networks (SANs) becomes increasingly vital. Storage vendors themselves are acutely aware of this problem, and their effort to reconcile hardware differences has spawned Bluefin--a cooperative venture to encourage effective storage management.

Based on the CIM (Common Information Model) and WBEM (Web Based Enterprise Management) standards, the Bluefin specification was created to provide a vendor-neutral, standard API for discovering, monitoring and managing multi-vendor storage devices. The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA)--which has led CIM and WBEM development for the last two years--announced the Bluefin specification in June of this year. The first draft of the Bluefin spec was written by a consortium of major storage vendors, including EMC, IBM, HP, Dell, Sun, and many others, who submitted it to SNIA for formal review.

On August 12 of this year, SNIA announced it had officially adopted Bluefin as the cornerstone of its new Storage Management Initiative (SMI), described as "an organization-wide program to develop, standardize, and drive the adoption of open storage management interfaces." Said Roger Reich, Chairman of the SMI Committee and the consortium of companies that drafted Bluefin, "The resources that built Bluefin will now be added to those of the SNIA to expand and accelerate the success of the storage networking industry."

SMI was developed in response to feedback from various SNIA customer surveys and polls, which consistently cited multi-vendor storage management as the number one concern for today's IT customers. As part of its stated goals for the SMI, SNIA plans to develop a schedule for advancing the Bluefin specification into a full storage management interface standard, as well as develop an SMI conformance test suite as part of the SNIA Interoperability Conformance Testing Program.

"It is imperative that the SNIA keep the standards process moving, because open standards always benefit both vendors and users," said Dan Tanner, director of storage research for the Aberdeen Group. "The SNIA Storage Management Initiative is a step towards putting a true management standard in place."

While Bluefin--now SMI--is a major step toward a unified storage management standard, it's important to remember that that it is still a standard in development, and Bluefin-compliant products won't begin to appear for another year or so. Until real products can be put through their paces, the jury's still out on Bluefin. In the meantime, storage customers should check with their storage vendor(s) to see whether future products will integrate Bluefin compatibility.

While you wait for Bluefin to become a reality, what tools do you use now to manage your storage? TalkBack or e-mail us with your thoughts.