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CIM-compliant Storage Management Gains Traction

Sun Microsystems recently released what the company claims is the first Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM)- and Common Information Model (CIM)-compliant Storage Area Network (SAN) management system. That release, coupled with a flurry of announcements from major storage vendors that they have exchanged APIs, signals that CIM-based storage management is finally starting to gain traction.

Last month, Sun unveiled Sun StorEdge Enterprise Storage Manager (ESM) software for SAN management (for more information, see the first article listed in Resources below). The software provides a centralized management platform for viewing and managing storage environments. The product incorporates the core management services of SAN topology reporting, device configuration, and proactive health monitoring and diagnostics, and represents a key element in Sun's efforts to promote fully integrated, open SAN architecture. During the product announcement, Sun took a swipe at the API exchanges of other major storage vendors, arguing that only products that adhered to open standards will open the door to new storage solutions.

Sun was alluding to deals between Hewlett-Packard (HP), EMC, IBM, and Hitachi to exchange APIs (for more information, see the second article in Resources, below). But Sun shouldn't misconstrue those deals as efforts to slow down the move to CIM-compliant storage management solutions. In fact, the companies involved in the deals positioned those exchanges as stepping-stones to the delivery of CIM-compliant products, which should be available in first quarter 2003.

The recent announcements mark an important turning point for the application of CIM in the storage arena. CIM is an object-oriented conceptual information model that the Distributed Management Taskforce (DMTF) developed for describing management information that isn't bound to a particular implementation. You can apply CIM throughout the network infrastructure. But because CIM is implementation-independent, CIM doesn't provide sufficient information for product development. You need to create specific extensions to apply CIM to different products such as servers, mobile devices, desktop devices, and storage devices.

CIM debuted in 1996, and many observers think that storage companies have dragged their feet in incorporating the technology into their products. IBM first showcased CIM technology in 1999, but efforts to bring products to market have largely stalled since then.

Two recent developments have accelerated the move toward truly open standards, however. In May, a consortium of 17 members of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) who have joined together in the Partner Development Program unveiled a specification called Bluefin (for more information, see the third article in Resources below), which describes how to use the storage extensions for CIM. Company officials involved in Bluefin described storage extensions as a pack of playing cards and Bluefin as the rules to the games that you can play with the cards. Bluefin does more than simply specify the object model; it documents what implementations need to do to achieve interoperability.

In addition to CIM, Bluefin draws on yet another standard developed by the DMTF, WBEM. Last summer, Winston Bumpus, president of the DMTF and director of standards at Novell, described WBEM as a forerunner of Web services. WBEM is a set of management and Internet standard technologies that centralize the management of enterprise computing environments. The tools let companies deliver a well-integrated set of standards-based management tools that leverage Web technologies.

CIM, WBEM, and Bluefin together provide a sufficient foundation for the emergence of products incorporating open storage management standards. In fact, although Sun claims to have released the first CIM and WBEM product, in July, the start-up company StorScape launched a CIM-based approach to storage management. According to company president Mark Urdahl, who was involved in establishing Fibre Channel as an industry standard, his company's products are the first to use CIM "from the ground up." The first CIM-based StorScape solution allows for policy-based automation across storage infrastructures.

CIM-compliant products appear in storage technology road maps released by IBM, Hitachi, and HP. Even EMC, which some observers believe has the most to lose as open standards take hold, has publicly supported the CIM and Bluefin approach. And perhaps EMC has no choice. As James Staten, vice president of strategy at Sun, has noted, "CIM/WBEM is now commercially viable and ready for development. Vendors can start writing CIM-based applications today." Achieving the goal of interoperability in the storage arena is getting closer.

Sun Microsystems Delivers New CIM-Compliant SAN Management Software

HP and IBM Expand Storage Interoperability Initiatives

Bluefin: A Storage Analytics Background Document
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