I love standards. And, any given month, I can count on some entity in the storage community to announce, propose, or ratify a storage standard. The current situation reminds me of the "font wars" of the mid-80s when Apple and Microsoft confronted Adobe's dominance in the font marketplace. One type vendor after another trooped to Redmond to spill the secrets of fine fontography. The result—TrueType—is certainly good technology and the equal of PostScript, but today the systems coexist. And users benefit.

Storage standards are evolving quickly as today's islands of "open" storage standards coalesce into more widely supported protocols and systems. Over the past 2 weeks, a couple of key associations have made announcements related to standards in file systems and tape protocols that are worth reviewing.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society has ratified a new set of storage system standards called the IEEE Media Management System (MMS). This standard covers four areas: architecture, data modeling, media management protocols, and drive management and library management protocols. The IEEE is also working on other MMS extensions through the computer society's Storage Systems Standards Committee (SSSC). Active projects include a standard for a data mover and for a portable tape driver architecture, standards for common tape driver semantics, a format for data on tape, and a guide for storage system design. The SSSC's guide is titled "Mass Storage System Reference Model."

The IEEE also adopted the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP), a standard originally developed by Network Appliance and Intelliguard Software (now part of Legato Systems) for enterprise backup. Because the IEEE's standards typically garner wide industry support, the new standards will, over time, affect the marketplace.

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) ratified the NDMP in July. News of IEEE adopting the NDMP standard followed SNIA's announcement that not only will it use NDMP as a standard for enterprise backup, but also that the SNIA Backup Working Group will further develop and manage NDMP as an open industry standard. (Network Appliances and Legato had requested SNIA's involvement in the NDMP standard.)

NDMP lets backup software control backup/restore information over a LAN to and from backup media, as well as over a Storage Area Network (SAN). This protocol makes it possible to control NDMP-compliant devices without the devices having to receive client code first. SNIA announced that its working group will release version 4 of the NDMP standard in the next few months, as well as seek vendor support and provide interoperability testing.