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Management suites come up short

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Should you buy a storage management suite from one vendor or try to piece together modules from different vendors? Before you answer that question, you must decide what you want to accomplish.

Stephen Foskett, a senior consultant with GlassHouse Technologies in Framingham, MA, says no vendor--large or small--has all of the answers yet. While he sees a lot of EMC Control Center in the field and he's heard good things about Fujitsu Softek's software, he doesn't view any of these products as true storage management suites. Foskett thinks that if you maybe take EMC's Control Center, Invio Software's Storage Practice Manager and someone else's backup software, "you might have something." But it wouldn't be an integrated solution. Foskett says all still miss the mark and require further development and integration before any one can be declared a suite.

Foskett advises users to first figure out which processes they need in order to manage their storage. Once they do that, they can then choose the products that will manage their storage and automate that process. Unfortunately, there are several different processes required to manage storage and not all can be automated, nor does Foskett believe they should be.

Computer Associates' BrightStor Portal
Computer Associates (CA), Islandia, NY, is the other major independent software-only vendor. Last year, CA introduced BrightStor Portal, which brings a single point of management to all the BrightStor components.

BrightStor addresses two general areas: data management and availability solutions and storage management solutions. The data management and availability portion addresses the data management needs of organizations such as backup and restore and hierarchical storage management (HSM), while the storage management solutions group helps organizations manage the utilization and provisioning of their storage, as well as manage the plumbing of their storage infrastructure.

Under the data management and availability solutions category, CA lists four plug-ins as part of this solution: Backup and Restore, HSM and Archive, Data Replication and Media Management. For their storage management solutions category, they list two components: Storage Resource Management and Storage Network Management.

Marco Coulter, CA's BrightStor VP of storage strategy, says customers need to know about their current storage environment and its utilization. Surveys of company storage environments have found that only 25% to 40% of files online are needed to support business needs, the rest are just hanging around. To help customers differentiate between the needed files and the ones just taking up space, BrightStor Portal gives administrators real-time access and control of their storage network infrastructure, regardless of the vendor platform or operating system.

Yet CA envisions BrightStor Portal becoming more of a business tool enabling a business-process view. Coulter observes that right now, approximately 80% of conversations in regards to open-systems storage are about infrastructure, and only 20% are about the business. BrightStor Portal should help to reverse those percentages using BrightStor's underlying components. For instance, it would use BrightStor's SAN Manager to report on a technical problem (e.g., a switch port is down) and correlate that problem to how it affects the business (i.e., the server supporting an essential Oracle database application is now at risk).

The BrightStor Portal server software runs on a Windows 2000 server with agents supporting Windows, Unix, NetWare and the OS/390 operating system environments. Customers are already using BrightStor Portal with CA's other BrightStor storage products such as Enterprise Backup, ARCserve Backup and Storage Resource Manager, while also extending support to include non-core CA technologies from companies such as Veritas, Legato, and IBM/Tivoli.

The long-term roadmap for this product may include tying it into its CA Unicenter product. According to CA's Coulter, they are already integrated in the sense that both BrightStor Portal and Unicenter products are built on the CA Common Services platform. This commonality could provide a central console as well as a common set of APIs from which to manage both network and storage applications. So for organizations looking for a one-stop shop for all of their computer infrastructure management needs, CA may well be the ticket.

Yet at this juncture in the game, buyers need to be wary when considering CA. According to a recent report from the Strategic Research Corporation, Carpinteria, CA, BrightStor Portal is just the first in a series of releases all aimed at supporting CA's broader vision of enterprise storage automation. In other words, release 1.0 products should be viewed with some caution regarding their functionality and integration features.

This was first published in June 2003

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