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The SMI-S standard was recently completed and rolled out by the Storage Networking Industry Association. The standard will be included in products that ship in 2005. According to Roger Reich, SMI committee chair of the SNIA, the standard will help CIOs solve many of the integration challenges in the data center. "We're trying to solve the end user's integration nightmare and make the data center easier to manage," he says. Of course, the new standards won't help older, noncompliant equipment, which will have to be converted to meet the new standards.
Meanwhile, analysts say storage virtualization will see greater adoption within the next five years but is still being developed. Virtualization allows companies to pool storage capacity from their various hardware devices, essentially creating one large pool of storage space. If one of your storage drives has only 4 gigabytes of memory left on it, while another has 6 gigabytes, and you have to store a file that's 10 gigabytes, virtualization would allow you to connect the drives' memory space as if it were all sitting in one place. "I would say the nirvana is probably another couple of years in terms of complete heterogeneous virtualization," says Yankee's Balaouras. "Vendors can do it today with their own equipment to varying degrees of success." Virtualization will also make migrating data from high tiers of storage to lower, less expensive storage devices a much simpler process, Balaouras adds.
Although virtualization is not quite ready for prime time, META Group suggests that CIOs ask potential vendors about their plans to develop virtualization tools and to begin thinking about how to best use virtualization strategically. Says Schafer, "Virtualization is the next step in creating a seamless storage utility and eventually moving to centralized storage management."