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Storage management is one of the most important enabling technologies for large-scale scientific investigations. Having to deal with multiple heterogeneous storage and file systems is one of the major bottlenecks in managing, replicating, and accessing files in distributed environments. Storage resource managers (SRMs), named after their Web services control protocol, provide the technology needed to manage the rapidly growing distributed data volumes, as a result of faster and larger computational facilities. SRMs are grid storage services providing interfaces to storage resources, as well as advanced functionality such as dynamic space allocation and file management on shared storage systems. They call on transport services to bring files into their space transparently and provide effective sharing of files. SRMs are based on a common specification that emerged over time and evolved into an international collaboration. This approach of an open specification that can be used by various institutions to adapt to their own storage systems has proven to be a remarkable success - the challenge has been to provide a consistent homogeneous interface to the grid, while allowing sites to have diverse infrastructures. In particular, supporting optional features while preserving interoperability is one of the main challenges we describe in this paper. We also describe using SRM in a large international high energy physics collaboration, called WLCG, to prepare to handle the large volume of data expected when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) goes online at CERN. This intense collaboration led to refinements and additional functionality in the SRM specification, and the development of multiple interoperating implementations of SRM for various complex multi- component storage systems.