Ask the Expert

Still searching for the Holy Grail of management software

I've read that some storage experts are very pessimistic about storage management software working well with other vendors' hardware. They feel that interoperability is not going to happen and their recommendation is to limit your vendors. What are your thoughts on this?

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I would have to say that their pessimism is justified to some degree. Although we have seen some definite progress in that area over the past year or so, we are still not there.

Most vendors offer products with features that attempt to give the administrator an impression of central management, but no one has found the "Holy Grail" yet. Most storage vendors ship their hardware with feature rich management interfaces but since you may need two or three software products to manage your heterogeneous storage environment, you end up with a lot of overlap. This often creates an impression of "wasted features" that is not necessarily conducive to buying yet another product that will combine all these features -- which you likely got for free in the first place.

That being said, we cannot totally lay the blame on vendors since until recently, there was an absence of standard in the industry. This prompted vendors to enter a race to see who would gain the most market shares and impose a de facto standard -- Microsoft style.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel with SNIA's Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) which was recently adopted by most key vendors in the storage arena. Without getting into the details of the initiative, it at least promises a common ground for interoperability between the different vendors' APIs.

As far a limiting your vendors as some experts suggest, I would have to agree and recommend not being too spread out on the vendor list. At the same time, I would avoid becoming locked into a one vendor situation. Keep in mind that vendors still often have interoperability issues within their own line of products.

Editor's note: Do you agree with this expert's response? If you have more to share, post it in one of our .bphAaR2qhqA^0@/searchstorage>discussion forums.

This was first published in May 2004

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