"Storage Strategies" by Jon Toigo
A weekly e-mail on storage from Enterprise Systems
Thursday, September 26, 2002

The Gang's All Here

Storage resource management providers are converging around a few key
themes -- in their marketing messages, at least.

Last week's column on Veritas Software prompted e-mails and a couple of
conversations with Veritas competitors claiming that the 800-pound
gorilla is no more about to turn over a new leaf than is that other "new"
storage resource management player from the Northeast, EMC.

Following Veritas' lead, EMC used last week's Chicago conference, Storage
Decisions, to announce that it too is adding enhanced reporting, policy-
based provisioning, and application-centric views to its storage resource
management (SRM) solution, called ControlCenter: Open Edition.

Interestingly, the critics unanimously held that both Veritas and EMC are
just playing catch-up to what companies like BMC Software, Fujitsu
SOFTEK, and CommVault Systems have been doing for years in their SRM
products. In fact, BMC and Fujitsu are already preparing to take these
features "to the next level" in releases due out by end of year. (I'm
privy to some of these enhancements and will cover them in detail here
once the non-disclosure agreements I've signed have expired.)

Bottom line: In its marketing messages, at least, the storage management
industry is converging around a few key themes:

1) Usable report information

Most SRM tools generate too much statistical info with their reporting
utilities, and few administrators can honestly say that all of the
enhanced reporting capability has actually saved them any time in their
jobs. More statistics mean more time that the administrator must spend
trying to discern useful insights from background noise. So, better
reporting means better distillation of raw data into usable information.
EMC and Veritas promise to try harder from now on.

Of course, end users have been complaining about SRM reporting for years
- most recently at the Storage World Conference in San Jose. (Nice of EMC
and Veritas to listen.)

2) Automate storage provisioning

Provisioning storage resources to meet the needs of applications -
especially growing storage volumes to meet the ravenous appetites of
Oracle databases and Exchange servers - is an ongoing pain for everyone.
Anything that can be done to automate the storage provisioning function
is a good thing. Veritas offered "wizards" in its last SAN Point Control
release, but will be automating these wizards (with optional operator
consultation and intervention) to bring provisioning and volume resizing
(using its virtualization engine, Volume Manager) to a new level. EMC
will be able to do the same thing with EMC arrays managed using its
ControlCenter SRM tool.

Savvy end users should view these promises for what they are:
unadulterated "marketecture." Truth be told, vendors are still offering
only the crudest form of storage provisioning - LUN aggregation within a
homogeneous storage repository. In short, you can't mix and match LUNs
from the storage platforms of different storage vendors, and you
certainly can't "carve" unused space in one LUN and "splice" it onto
another. LUN carving and splicing continue to be holy grails, obfuscated
by vendor proprietary interests.

As for wizards (and wizards of wizards), this functionality is almost as
annoying as that paper clip fellow who pops up in Microsoft Word to
"help" you to do stuff you already know how to do. That's why users have
almost universally shot down every policy-based management scheme that
the industry has served up thus far.

3) Application-centric views are a must. Vendors have stolen a page from
BMC on this one. BMC Software has some truly excellent tools for
presenting storage (and networks and servers) associated with a specific
application. Plus, they offer some cool technology for drilling down into
the internals of Oracle and for enabling the repositioning of database
elements on a spool-by-spool basis to improve application performance.
Veritas and EMC have a ways to go before they can do this as well as BMC
can. But it's nice to know that they've seen the wisdom of BMC's ways in
this regard.

Smart storage users already know that application centrism is key to
effective storage management. Until the "storage utility infrastructure"
actually appears in the market (if ever it does, now that the Enterprise
Network Storage Architecture - ENSA - is being brokered by HP), storage
platforms simply aren't smart enough to identify what applications need,
or to serve those needs automatically. So, we still need to do things the
old-fashioned way: decide on an app, then provision the storage resources
that it needs. In the end, the performance of this application is based
on the smooth operation of its support infrastructure. SRM tools need to
provide an end-to-end view of the infrastructure associated with each and
every application that's deployed.

In the final analysis, it's good to hear that vendors have begun to talk
real-world SRM requirements. I'll be watching closely to see whether
their products actually walk the walk.

Copyright 2002 101communications LLC.

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Last Modified: March 9, 2008