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Does EMC ControlCenter live up to its claims?

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A few of the storage-specific agents that can be integrated into ECC/Open Edition are Array Management, Storage Network Management and Host Management. Through these integrated components, EMC touts its ability to bring heterogeneous support of various products under ECC's management. A complete list of these supported products can be found in ECC product documentation on EMC's Web site.

Array management--to a greater or lesser degree depending on product--can be achieved by accessing the management point of the hardware via a shared API. However, without the shared API, only basic statistical information can be gleaned from the array--no management of storage ports, no LUN creation or other volume management tasks. Simple read-only access to performance data is what you can expect from hardware intelligence that's being supported, but not shared.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider EMC's ControlCenter if you're managing a heterogeneous storage network. However, I'll say that the more EMC and perhaps HP StorageWorks equipment you have, the more likely this solution will be of benefit to your management budget.

Heterogeneous SAN management is accomplished using EMC SAN Manager, which recently replaced Enterprise Storage Network Manager. SAN Manager aggregates the administrative functions of multivendor SAN gear into a single interface, thereby reducing the need for a separate management application for each brand of device. That, in

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turn, can reduce administrative man hours and save expenses on items such as licenses and servers to host each management application. I say reduce--and not eliminate--because all of the devices functionality may not be available to SAN Manager. Depending on the relationship with the vendor, you are likely only to have discovery, zoning, performance and health monitoring available at this level.

In fact, much of this functionality can be obtained by interfacing with the Fibre Channel (FC) protocol alone, without any sharing of information by vendors. Therefore, the potential procurer of such a solution should at least hold the vendor/product accountable for providing that amount of functionality. If the product can't deliver that functionality, it's doubtful that the software engineers at the organization are going to be able to bring a more useful and competitive product to market.

This somewhat limited ability to completely manage a SAN switching device for example, is obviously due to vendor competition. Almost all SAN hardware that can be discovered by SAN Manager has its own native management application developed and being sold by the manufacturer. That reduces the likelihood that any real management functionality can be had by an application developed elsewhere.

What EMC has done with SAN Manager is give you the ability to summon those native applications through its interface. That's the way to go as long as the support staff of the vendor who you purchased the solution from is up on interworkings of the summoned application. What you don't want is to have to interface with a second vendor to get resolution, thereby increasing the chance of finger pointing.

SAN Manager does have the ability to backup and recover heterogeneous switch configurations, simultaneously configure zones and LUN masking and provide your SAN with end-to-end path management. Having the ability to backup and recover heterogeneous switch configurations is a big win for the largest of sites with the most diverse compilations of hardware. The autopath wizard simplifies the process of switch zoning and LUN masking by completing both tasks in one operation. That reduces human error and streamlines the operations associated with SAN security. End-to-end path management is a dream come true for the troubleshooter engaged in an exercise with several hops between the initiator and target.

EMC has brought host management to ECC by way of ARM. ARM provides for the provisioning, monitoring, real-time reporting and alert notification of such data structures as databases, logical volumes and file systems on Unix, Windows and MVS operating systems. Accomplished by alert notification, administrators can develop autofix scripts to launch upon the receipt of an event from a managed data structure to enhance lights out operations. ControlCenter 5.1 is free with the purchase of one of its application plug-ins. With the plug-ins priced as follows:

  • Automatic Resource Manager (ARM): $5,800
  • StorageScope: $3,300
  • Common Array Manager: $1,000
  • SAN Manager: $16,000
  • Workload Analyzer: $6,600
You'll notice that the higher priced plug-ins are the applications that are more heterogeneous in nature. Due to current functionality and support, the common array manager is of lesser value to organizations that don't have an EMC or HP StorageWorks storage array. Look for this value assessment as well as its price to change as APIs are swapped between more disk array vendors. As for the value of the other application plug-ins, the functional aspect of the value-add equation can be found to be complete, however, ControlCenter's true value can only be ascertained by its extended support of the specific applications and hardware in your data center. The larger percentage of heterogeneous support, the greater value ControlCenter will offer to your overall SAN management solution. As for now, ECC is a good beginning of things to come if EMC continues to work with other leading vendors in the storage space.

In conclusion, EMC's ControlCenter product is definitely a next-generation package. It provides intelligence over and above basic discovery and zoning with its own engineering efforts directed towards backup and recovery, streamlining operational tasks by encapsulating long tedious procedures into single operations, and heterogeneous support. And although management functionality is limited in some of ECC's advertised supported hardware, an effort has been made to forge relationships with other vendors by integrating their native management applications into ECC.

This was first published in June 2003

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