Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Certification Nightmare

One of the things I've always found a real issue in heterogeneous environments is that of certification. By certification I mean confirming that an installation is vendor supported. This is no mean feat in today's storage world. There are multiple layers - storage array, fabric, HBA, O/S, logical volume manager and multipathing software. There are also issues of virtualisation, product co-existence (e.g mixing switches from the same vendor but different OEM vendors), management tools, replication software and applications.

The stack of products and levels that must be considered is huge, especially if each layer has multiple products. It is also true that certain vendors don't help this situation (a) when new software is required to support a new array (for example) and it affects all other layers of the stack (b) competing vendors don't fully support their competitor's technology until well after the release date.

I've not yet seen a suitable solution for tracking certification levels. Firstly, even the vendors can't document their own products in a consistent fashion. Consider Emulex - querying the driver level on a Windows host returns a string which *contains* the version, but isn't in a consistent format. The returned string is different for Emulex on Solaris.

I think we've reached the point where we need a Certification Authority. Someone needs to take control and get all vendors to map their products to a consistent standard. Actually, I'd like to do it and I'm working on a markup language to help. It wouldn't be difficult. Probably the most troublesome part would be assigning an index code to each version/product/level that vendors produce - and getting them to use them....

By the way, in case anyone suggests SAN Advisor or Onaro SANScreen, I don't think either of these products are up to the mark. I've seen SAN Advisor demonstrated a number of times and it looked like a generation 1 product. SANScreen was interesting but not a certification tool as such - more like a semantic rather than syntactic storage product.


Stephen said...


Good idea but highly unlikely that the vendors will co-operate all that much. I can't get HDS to make any decisions about some of their own equipment let alone everyone else's. Even looking at what SNIA tries to do does not inspire me all that much. Some storage resellers seem to get on their own bandwagons and make some statements that border on the ridiculous. The best one I saw was saying that Qlogic SANBox 2 switches would not work with HDS virtualisaton. I can't believe that as a switch should be totally invisible to the storage. But then again, if there was a CA, then we could tell them to stop making up stories and get on with it..

Stephen (aka stephen2615)

Chris M Evans said...

Sigh...yes I suppose it is an impossible dream, but unless customers (not pointless "industry organisations") drive vendors to produce what they want then we;re going to be stuck with the status quo.