SMI-S Provider, what's your function?

Brandon's A little bit of new and old about the history of computing brought back fond memories of my Apple II+ with 2 floppy drives and the 8088 I have that still boots and runs WordPerfect 4.2.  But I started thinking about the evolution of storage arrays and how we monitor them.  A lot of you are trying Storage Manager, and you are running into SMI-S Providers for the first time.  SMI-S?  Provider? What is all this nonsense?  Back in the early 1990's, the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) put together the Common Information Model (CIM) to describe managed elements in a computing environment.  In 2000, a specification for storage devices based on CIM was created and SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative - Specification) were born.

Why am I beating you with acronyms?  Is this important? Yes, because most array vendors prefer to provide information about their arrays via this method, as it allows them to hide most changes to the underlying architecture from reporting and monitoring tools, which is a good thing for all of us.  The idea was to provide end-users with a unified way of reporting and managing all storage devices, like SNMP for networking... but more on that later.

A "provider" is simply the software that provides the information about the array to other applications. Each provider is built by the OEM of the Array, and they determine what data it will provide (asset, storage, allocation, mapping and performance data and more).  The OEM vendor generally can deliver the provider to the user in three ways:

  • Separate software installation
  • Integrated into the vendor management software
  • Embedded in the array (the provider is part of the array software)

So depending on your vendor, you may have some work to do before Storage Manager can discover and monitor arrays.  Our awesome SMI-S configuration document covers the installation, configuration and troubleshooting of the SMI-S providers that we support - including download links, but here is a quick summary of the steps you need to take to configure the provider and array  in Storage Manager.

Separate software installation:

  • Download the software and install it on a server (generally does not need connectivity to the SAN).
  • Configure the provider to connect to the array, generally you will need the IP addresses of the array controllers.

Integrated into the vendor management software:

  • Generally, the provider is installed by default and will already be configured.
  • Follow the instructions in the SMI-S configuration document for help with your management software.

Embedded into the array:

  • The provider is generally installed and running by default.
  • Follow the instructions in the SMI-S configuration document for help with your management software.

Next, add the array in Storage Manager

Configure Storage Manager to monitor the array in one of two ways:

  1. Use the Discovery engine to discover the array, make sure the IP  address of the Provider (not the array) is in the IP range of the  discovery configuration.  Once discovery is complete, you can choose which Storage Manager agent you want to use, and you are done.
  2. Go to the Getting Started page, pick your array type and fill in the  required fields (generally IP of the provider, credentials and the array  identifier).  You can press the Test button to check connectivity.  Once complete, press save and Storage Manager will start monitoring the array.

This looks like a lot of work, but it is really easy - it should take about 5 minutes the first time you configure a provider and Storage Manager.  Next time we will take a  deeper look at file analysis.

Note: Here is a quick list of arrays we support and the kind of provider they have:

Separate software installation:

  • Dell MD3K Family - use the LSI Provider.
  • EMC VNX/Clariion and VMAX/VMAXe/DMX/Symmetrix - use the EMC Provider.
  • IBM DS 3K, 4K, 5K- use the LSI Provider.
  • Oracle Sun StorageTek Family (2K, 6K) - use the LSI Provider.
  • SGI - use the LSI Provider

Integrated into the vendor management software:

  • Dell Compellent - provider part of Enterprise Manager
  • HP EVA - provider part of HP Command View
  • HP XP - provider part of HDS HiCommand
  • HDS USP, USPV - provider part of HDS HiCommand
  • Oracle Sun StorageTek 99xx Series - provider part of HDS HiCommand

Embedded in the array (the provider is part of the array software):

  • 3par
  • IBM DS 6K, 8K
  • IBM SVC/V7000 (embedded on the cluster and the main console)
  • XIV
  • Pillar

No Provider, Storage Manager uses a different methodology:

  • Dell Equallogic - uses SNMP
  • EMC Celera - uses Telnet/SSH
  • HP P4000 Series (Lefthand) - uses SNMP
  • IBM N-Series - uses NetApp API
  • NetApp - uses NetApp API
  • Xiotech Magnitude and Emprise - uses API

PS: SMI-S is alive and well, with new extensions to the specifications  coming out every couple of years to match pace with new technology.   However, since this is only a specification on how to describe the  storage device, vendors have been free to embrace and extend the  specification, leading to some fragmentation of the availability of data  for all arrays.  Is this a problem?  For Storage Manager, no, it handles the  differences, normalizing the data where it can, but extending to support  the important data the vendor has included.