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|A sampling of vendor offerings|
Hardware vendors go soft
An interesting development in storage management has been the transition of vendors traditionally associated with hardware into software players. One of the more notable companies making this transition is EMC.
Spearheading this change in focus is EMC's ability to build on its existing storage array management software. EMC is taking its EMC ControlCenter (ECC) software that it uses to manage its Symmetrix storage arrays and is converting it to provide a more holistic storage management console.
In short, EMC wants to manage more than just its storage arrays. Tony Marzulli, EMC's VP of open software marketing, says EMC's most recent release of ECC 5.1 manages and provisions storage on other vendor's storage arrays. A feature called StorageScope load balances and understands how hard drives, memory and Fibre Channel (FC) ports on their storage arrays are being utilized. The SAN Manager component enables SAN administrators to visualize and manage their SAN infrastructure, graphically displaying LUN mappings, SAN zonings and the worldwide names of each node attached to that fabric.
Marzulli adds that the term "suite" implies integration and the ability for the different components of the suite to talk to each other. To achieve this, the ECC architecture uses an underlying Oracle database that's populated with information collected from the APIs of the devices on the storage network, as well as from the agents running on the servers. This gives storage administrators a central repository from which they can manage and report on their storage infrastructure.
But to accomplish this interoperability, EMC needs other vendors' APIs, which, in most cases, it currently doesn't possess. Instead, it must reverse engineer other vendor's storage arrays to capture this critical information needed to populate their Oracle database. Marzulli says the testing process EMC must go through is "mind boggling," because no storage standards formally exist and the ones on the drawing boards lag behind where the vendor community is currently at.
EMC has embarked on a costly and risky strategy to capture this critical information from other vendor's storage arrays. When Marzulli says the task is "mind boggling," do users need to question how reliable or predictable the outcomes of these tests will be for their installations?
And despite all the talk has EMC really committed to an open software strategy? The only storage arrays ECC currently offers full management capabilities for are its own Symmetrix and Clariion storage arrays. While EMC offers varying degrees of interoperability capabilities with certain other vendor's storage arrays such as HP's, Hitachi Data Systems' (HDS), and IBM's, customers still need to read the fine print to make sure ControlCenter will work with the storage arrays from other vendors in their environment. Several consultants familiar with EMC products say EMC is still stuck in a mindset of one guy doing everything. However, the recent addition of Astrum Software's Storage Resource Manager to its software suite should help EMC manage more of its competitor's storage arrays in a more vendor-neutral manner.
Another traditional hardware vendor, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), also updated its storage strategy with the announcement of their TrueNorth initiative. It plans to build on its legacy software and extend its capabilities to manage other vendor's storage arrays using the emerging common information model (CIM) standard. One area in which the company may seek to distinguish themselves from other traditional hardware-only vendors is to move more of the storage management intelligence into the storage network itself. Recent investments in DataCore by its parent company, Hitachi Ltd., seems to reinforce this strategic initiative.
Another company cooperating with HDS is Sun Microsystems, although Sun has its own storage initiative called StorEdge. While Sun offers storage hardware from HDS and volume management software from Veritas, Sun compliments these offerings with an SRM product, a storage utilization product and performance management software, all under the StorEdge label and targeted at shops running primarily Sun software.
HP's background typifies the set of vendors who provide both hardware and software solutions but, as opposed to most hardware vendors, HP's history lies primarily in the open-systems space.
According to Don Langeberg, HP's director of marketing for storage software, HP has taken a dual branding strategy for its storage software offerings that are founded on its ENSAextended architecture. HP's main storage management offering is its OpenView Storage Area Manager which has five main components: Storage Node Manager for device management; Storage Builder for capacity management; Storage Optimizer for performance management; Storage Accountant for metering and billing and Storage Allocator to control storage allocation.
HP also offers as part of its data management offerings OpenView Data Protector Suite for data backup and recovery along with its Continuous Access Storage Appliance (CASA), which enables network-based replication between heterogeneous storage devices.
The other half of HP's storage software strategy is the StorageWorks solutions that remains targeted at managing HP's legacy hardware and software solutions. It includes array-integrated solutions such as StorageWorks Command View, StorageWorks Business Copy and StorageWorks Continuous Access.
If all these products seem to overlap, they do. According to Nancy Marrone, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group, HP sells individual modules that when used together accomplish the same set of tasks as another vendor's single solution. In some cases, it may make more sense to buy one product instead of several HP modules. In light of the overlapping products, potential buyers of HP products should be asking: Which products will survive and which ones won't?
Mainframers embrace open systems
Two of the larger players in the enterprise mainframe storage space--Fujitsu and IBM--are starting to make their presence known in enterprise open-systems storage software. Fujitsu formed a new company under its general umbrella of companies called Fujitsu Softek. Fujitsu Softek's charter is to remain vendor neutral, both on the software and hardware side. Second, it can act like a big company and make the necessary acquisitions and decisions needed to play in the enterprise space, but it can also act like a startup because it doesn't carry the legacy baggage that established vendors bring to the table.
In March of this year, IBM released its TotalStorage software roadmap that will build on components that already exist in its storage arrays, but will go well beyond the functionality currently offered in its arrays.
In both cases, both companies willingness to cut ties to their legacy systems is striking, and their underlying approach to managing the emerging storage infrastructure of the future similar. Both Fujitsu Softek and IBM intend to move much of the storage intelligence and management capabilities over time into the storage network itself. Fujitsu Softek appears on track to use storage controller technology from DataCore Software as its network based virtualization engine. IBM is intent on using Linux-based Intel servers to accomplish a similar function.
Recently, Fujitsu Softek announced a significant upgrade to Storage Manager. Even more notable than the upgrade was the switch in focus to this product as the cornerstone of its emerging Storage Management suite. According to Gerard Svartz, Fujitsu Softek's product marketing manager, a year ago, the company's network-based virtualization product was the more strategic vision, but for whatever reason--lack of education, not wanting a Wintel server in the data path--customers weren't receptive to it.
So in response to its customer's lack of response, Storage Manager was moved to the forefront. The 2.1 release expands provisioning beyond network pools of storage offered by virtualization to include that of storage arrays offered by vendors. Fujitsu Softek released a new product in May called Storage Provisioner that works through a wizard-like interface, enabling users to provision storage seamlessly in SAN and non-SAN environments.
IBM's Tivoli Software and the IBM Systems Group are working on the different components of their total storage software solution. A third IBM division, the IBM Global Services (IGS) is responsible for integrating the pieces in each customer's environment. Randy Kerns, a member of the Evaluator Group in Greenwood Village, CO, sees the design responsibilities at IBM breaking out roughly as follows: Tivoli Software has responsibility for the portions of their solution that address application management, management framework, storage resource management and storage network management. The IBM Systems Group will deliver on virtualization and device management, while IGS will work on pulling together these pieces in user environments (see "Breakdown of IBM storage groups," this page).
This was first published in June 2003