Pick the right SRM tool


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Application-centric approach
What's next? All indications are that the existing design paths discussed above will merge into a powerful new SRM suite with an application-centric approach that combines the best of each categories. In many cases, it's already happening. Today's SRM tools fit into various niches, but each product is starting to incorporated some elements common to the other categories (see "

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SRM-only vendors")

Make no mistake: It's the customers not the vendors who are driving this charge toward an application-centric design. Scott Shimomura, product design manager at Fujitsu Softek, and Scott Hansbury at Creekpath Software say their customers want end-to-end storage management and reporting. This end-to-end approach starts at the application level, goes through the storage network to the spindle level on the individual storage arrays.

As SRM products evolve, smaller vendors who have first-generation SRM products typified by passive storage management will be challenged to adapt their products to become increasingly active in storage management. Even large vendors will struggle to adapt their models to the more flexible model that will surely emerge. Vendors such Veritas and BMC will need to build more hardware capability into their legacy software-centric infrastructures, while the EMC's and IBM's of the world will need to introduce more open software designs into their device-centric approaches.

To help make this transition, the big boys will likely try to acquire some of the smaller companies that have technology they want. Sun just recently did this by acquiring Pirus Networks. It can provide the network-centric portion Sun lacked in their product suite. Veritas snatched up the Storage Reporter product from NTP Software, presumably to allow their SANPoint Control product to work on servers lacking Veritas' legacy software. IBM meanwhile offers DataCore's SANsymphony software and recently purchased TrelliSoft. Both of these are said to be interim solutions that IBM will offer until their full suite of products under their StorageTank initiative are ready to ship.

So as these SRM tools develop, choosing the best product for your environment will be difficult because of the constantly changing nature of the products. And we haven't even heard yet from big name computer companies that may enter the SRM space. While unlikely, it is not impossible SRM may follow the same path as it did in the mainframe world. What, for example, is to stop a Microsoft, Sun, IBM, Cisco or Brocade from entering this field with an SRM option, especially with so many small vendors looking to get bought out?

All these major players would have to do is buy a small company, add the new SRM functionality as part of their core OS package and they are in the SRM business. In fact, Brocade's recent purchase of Rhapsody Networks may indicate just such a move to incorporate more storage intelligence onto their switch. One would also have to think that with a portion of the intelligence of this application-centric approach moving into the network, Cisco could be a major player, especially with their army of engineers and dominance in the network, and their recent foray into the Fibre Channel space.

All this competition is good for the end user. As they mature, SRM tools will get better and better. As the market matures, the number of choices will drop and the winners will begin to emerge. What will define the winners are those companies who can successfully execute on the adoption and integration of these different SRM approaches into one robust application-centric solution.

This was first published in January 2003

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