ILM to Share Center Stage at Storage Show

Friday Apr 2nd 2004 by Clint Boulton

Look for ILM, SMI-S, and intelligent networking to be among the hot topics at next week's Storage Networking World.

Information lifecycle management (ILM) and intelligent networking will be among the prevailing themes at next week's Storage Networking World Spring 2004 show in Phoenix, according to analysts and vendors.

Look for a flurry of demonstrations from key networking fabric vendors such as Cisco Systems , Brocade Communications Systems , and McDATA .

But one of the highlights could be the annual update on the long-running story of the Storage Management Initiative Specification, or SMI-S.

Formerly called Bluefin, SMI-S posits a specification for allowing hardware and software from different vendors to interoperate in storage area networks (SANs) .

The spec cuts through the clutter of incompatible code to enable uniform functionality in a sea of products from disparate and competing vendors. This could also help customers cut costs associated with purchasing point products and adapters to help disparate products work together.

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), the organization responsible for developing the specification, said in a statement it plans to demonstrate how arrays, switches, host bus adapters (HBAs) , network-attached storage (NAS) devices, and storage media libraries from multiple vendors can be integrated using SMI-S.

According to SNIA spokesman Ray Dunn, the demo will consist of real-time SAN management functions such as adding arrays and switches to the SAN, creating and mapping volumes to hosts, setting up zones, and injecting faults into the SAN such as unplugging cables.

The demo, which originated from SNIA's SMI Lab in Colorado Springs, Colo., brings together products from a variety of hardware and software vendors, and employs products from the likes of Cisco, EMC , HP , IBM , HDS , and a host of others.

Nancy Marrone-Hurley, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, says SMI-S is ready for prime-time and calls the interoperability progress SNIA and all the vendors supporting SMI-S have made in the past two years "impressive."

Other Hot Topics: Intelligent Fabrics, Storage for SMBs, and ILM

Marrone-Hurley also told there will be a few announcements in the switch arena, as well as demonstrations of intelligence in the fabric, including announcements that show the switch vendors are strengthening their portfolios and providing more investment protection as customers build out their SANs.

The small and medium-sized business (SMB) market has been a big focus for storage this year and will continue to draw attention at the show, according to Marrone-Hurley, with lots of partnership and product news announcements expected.

She also reports Microsoft will be unveiling some new offerings that make it easier to use the company's servers in a SAN, as well as some long-awaited announcements designed to strengthen its NAS position.

Beyond that, the party line seems to be ILM.

"But be ready to be confused," cautions Marrone-Hurley. "Not all vendors see ILM the same way, and to be truthful most every ILM solution offered today is actually more DLM [data lifecycle management] -oriented, meaning those solutions are focused on moving data around the storage infrastructure, and have no real knowledge of the effect on an application of that data movement."

EMC Vice President of Platforms Marketing Chuck Hollis has his own take on ILM for the show.

"I think this is where the industry has to show how customers achieve ILM," says Hollis. "We basically look at it as — classify your applications and information around multiple tiers of cost and service levels, automate, and manage it. By that definition, it doesn't leave a lot of room for niche players."

"If you're really going to do ILM," Hollis continues, "you have to do it across a lot of your environment. A lot of people are saying here's the piece I do, and customers are saying 'I want the whole enchilada, not just the diced onions, please.'"

Meanwhile, McDATA, Cisco, and Brocade have all promised to demonstrate products at the show in conjunction with partner companies.

McDATA will team with StoreAge Networking Technologies and Aarohi Communications to show how volume management, snapshot, mirroring, data replication, and migration products work with its upcoming Sphereon Intelligent Switch.

Cisco will introduce its MDS 9000 Data Tap Service, a new interface that provides a bridge between Cisco switches and third-party storage appliances to access servers and storage devices on a SAN without having to be directly in the path of the data. Software vendors Alacritus, Kashya, and Topio will join Cisco in the demo.

Rounding out the switch makers, Brocade will give attendees a peek at its new entry-level switches targeted at SMBs. Brocade will also demonstrate its multiprotocol router and multiprotocol SAN routing services.

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