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Hands-On Review: Softek Performance Tuner

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Performance Tuner's easy-to-navigate interface offers a single-screen view of service index, throughput and responsiveness.

Our tests were based on these criteria.

Test setup
Atesting environment for an enterprise SRM product requires a sufficiently diverse configuration to exercise the product's capabilities. Our test setup was provided by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), a Colorado Springs, CO, industry group dedicated to advancing storage technology and deployment. In the SNIA lab, we used three Microsoft Windows XP systems, one Windows 2003 system and a Sun Solaris server. All the Windows servers had Emulex LP10000 host bus adapters (HBAs) connected to an IBM Enterprise Storage Server model F20 via a Brocade SilkWorm 2800 Fibre Channel switch. Additionally, the Sun server had 50GB of direct-attached storage that was being monitored. While relatively modest, this configuration included most of the typical elements found in larger SANs. We also used Iometer, an open-source tool used to induce a sequential access or random access workload on storage systems for testing purposes.

Installation
Softek recommends that ESRM and Performance Tuner be installed on a standalone Windows 2000 or Windows 2003 server. Agents must also be installed on each managed server. The agent controls a small local database that stores captured information. Installing an individual agent is quick and easy, but installation across large server farms with hundreds or thousands of servers could involve significant effort. Nevertheless, this architecture is consistent with other products in the category.

Softek also recommends that professional services be engaged for the initial installation. This is sound advice; even with a Softek engineer on site, our total installation spanned nearly three days, although some of that time was spent waiting for materials. SRM systems have complex interdependencies, and grappling with them can eat up a storage administrator's time. For example, we ran into an inconsistency between the Brocade switch and Windows Server 2003 that required a substitution with Windows Server 2000. We should point out that the desirability of professional services assistance is consistent with our experiences using other SRM products.

Usability
Performance Tuner is displayed in the Storage Manager console as a separate tab with its own menu items (see "Single screen summarizes data"). The GUI is intuitive, easy to use and lets an administrator build performance data queries without having to know SQL. It should be noted that included runtime versions of SQL Server and MySQL run on the main server. Performance Tuner has a rich set of graphing tools, allowing data and graphs to be exported for further manipulation or inclusion in other documents.

This was first published in November 2004

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