Keeping your eyes on all of your devices might require more than just two eyes


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Piecemeal management
Simultagnosia occurs when the administrator charged with managing disparate devices on the SAN makes changes in one management realm without having a visual understanding of the affect those changes will have on another realm. This change will undoubtedly cause a ripple effect throughout your backup window and possibly cause backups to fail, leaving applications vulnerable to data loss.

Continuing down this trail, LUN masking and SAN zoning are sometimes used interchangeably. Depending on the security practices of a particular organization, they may both be used to serve up and organize storage resources on the SAN. In this example, if there isn't someone in the organization that's familiar with the management interfaces of the disk array, SAN switches and possibly server HBAs, you may very well need three people to carve up your storage. This is certainly not what you intended when you sold senior management on this whole idea of moving to a SAN.

Aggregating management interfaces into a single storage management console is obviously the goal here. But with a significant number of the vendors in this space being stingy and not sharing the intelligence of their hardware with each other in an effort to gain market share, significant SAN management software offerings have been hard to come by. I'm not referring to software offerings that provide discovery and basic zoning. By significant, I mean an offering

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that provides portals into the management interfaces of hardware from leading vendors in the storage space within a click of a mouse.

How nice it would be to sit down at a single console and launch an application that not only discovers the resources on your SAN, but also provides you with the same kind of hardware control that you'd enjoy if you were using the software that was packaged with the hardware at the factory. In order for this to happen with any speed, we must put pressure on vendors to share their hardware intelligence with the software management vendor of our choosing.

Pressure doesn't mean being satisfied when the hardware vendor answers your interoperability questions by saying that they're corporate partners with your software vendor. I've implemented enough solutions to know that in the field, being corporate partners means nothing when problems arise and fingers start pointing. Pressure means insisting that your perspective hardware vendor swaps APIs with your software vendor before signing your deal.

Of course, this suggests that their legal departments would have to come to some sort of agreement--a feat within itself. But we as users can't continue to allow the egos of lawyers and CEOs limit our abilities to manage our storage infrastructures in the most cost-effective manner. On one hand, vendors want your budget dollars, yet on the other hand they hold the reins of your ability cut cost within your organization.

In these lean times, vendors should be more sympathetic to your bottom line. When times were better and capital budgets overflowed with cash, the vendors reaped the benefits. And although the vendors have cash flow and stock price problems, cooperation within the entire industry is necessary if the industry is to rebound at all. Perhaps they should let the benefits and features of the products that they develop dictate their market share, and not the proprietary practices that they engage in.

The user community's preference for standards has forced big shots in the industry to conform to these standards. That opens up their products for mere mortals to manage, thus cutting back on their professional services revenue. However, when vendors don't share the intelligence of their hardware in the form of an API, it amounts to a reinvention of their proprietary ways of the past. And although performance and scalability are inherent benefits of moving to a SAN solution, a reduction in management costs could be seen as the greatest monetary benefit of a SAN deployment. This benefit won't be possible until vendors take the covers off of their products for us all to see.

Superior SAN resource management is the key to the amount and rate of investment that corporations will invest in this technology. It's one of the main selling points of the investment and it's the only way that IT organizations will be able to manage the data that abounds from their data centers. But it will require vendors to develop and share APIs with the heavyweights in our field. Then perhaps there can be benefits for all of us.

This was first published in May 2003

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