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SAN design tools

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EMC's SAN Architect
EMC takes a different approach with SAN Architect. The tool is currently offered only as a Web-based subscription service, but it may be introduced as a loadable product in 2005, says Barry Ader, EMC's director of enterprise software. Pricing for a one-year subscription starts at $2,400.

The key component of SAN Architect is its interoperability matrix, which is similar to CA's knowledgebase. SAN Architect uses the interoperability matrix to identify which components of the SAN will work with other components. In addition, the tool provides a set of best practices consisting of as many as 150 design rules. "These are recommendations about the placement of cards and the configuration of various pieces," says Ader.

Currently, SAN Architect lacks automated discovery. "The administrator enters the details [using a Web browser] of the design manually," Ader explains. Once the details are entered, the admin can run an interoperability screening. EMC expects SAN Architect users to render the final results of their design with Visio, although Visio isn't built into SAN Architect as it is with the CA product.

EMC plans to integrate SAN Architect with its ControlCenter SRM tool. At that point, configuration data stored in ControlCenter will be shared with SAN Architect. The product was in beta at the end of 2004, and Ader expects the integrated product to be available in early 2005.

Matt Steinberg, senior solutions architect at systems integrator and EMC partner Cambridge Computer Services Inc., Waltham, MA, uses SAN Architect with customers. "We use it mainly for help with compatibility through the interoperability matrix," he says. For example, it saves him from sorting through vendor certification lists to discover which host bus adapters work with which hosts.

Although the interoperability matrix contains data on a wide range of vendors' SAN components, the tool is intended primarily for SANs designed around EMC arrays.

Change management
In SAN design, the initial SAN is the easiest because it just happens. "Usually people don't design a small SAN. They just plug together a switch and a disk array," says Josh Judd, author of Multiprotocol Routing for SANs and principal engineer at Brocade Communications Systems Inc. Design issues crop up when you change or add to the initial SAN. That's when it gets complicated (see Common SAN designs).

"Every change has to be designed with regard to best practices," says Assaf Levy, VP of product management and co-founder of Onaro, which offers SANscreen (for a review of SANscreen, see Storage, September 2004). SANscreen lets admins simulate changes to the SAN before they're implemented. It then produces impact reports highlighting the results of the contemplated changes.

SANscreen also does SAN discovery, although it lacks the vendor-specific compatibility knowledge built into SAN Architect and SAN Designer. Instead, it identifies the SAN components and their dependencies, and then tracks and documents any changes to the SAN.

As SAN design tools evolve and discover more devices in the SAN, they'll become more useful. Interoperability issues consume a storage admin's time. Changing the SAN's configuration is their biggest design challenge.

This was first published in February 2005

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