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Single-pane storage management

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"Instead of looking at heterogeneous storage management from a single pane-of-glass perspective, a better way to look at it today is from a user's pane-of-glass angle," notes Russell. It's all about the 80/20 rule: "Storage managers need to choose the tool that best matches their priorities and select a storage management suite that takes care of the top 80% of their needs," he adds. Obviously, standards are always lagging behind new technologies; as long as storage technologies evolve as rapidly as they have in the past 10 years, a heterogeneous storage management nirvana can only be approximated.

The Aperi initiative

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Last October, IBM Corp. led a consortium of storage vendors, including Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., Engenio Information Technologies Inc., Fujitsu, McData Corp., Network Appliance Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc., in announcing Aperi, an open-source community that plans to develop an open-standards-based storage management platform. If Aperi succeeds in its objective--and there's plenty of debate on whether it can--storage management vendors will be able to focus on developing higher level storage management applications that support heterogeneous storage, rather than constantly re-implementing basic storage plumbing. While SNIA's Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) provides a specification, Aperi will provide a reference implementation. The hope of Aperi's participating companies is that Aperi will accelerate the adoption of SMI-S, and storage management vendors will run their apps on top of Aperi.

But several big storage companies--EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Symantec Corp.--are missing from the Aperi consortium list. "For the Aperi open-source initiative to gain widespread involvement and success, operating system support beyond Linux [and] a clearly defined certification process, a vendor-independent management body like SNIA and participation of other large vendors is crucial," says Laura DuBois, IDC's research director, storage software.

Heterogeneous storage management trends
Storage management vendors have been struggling to differentiate their suites from competitors and convince customers to spend money--in some cases more than $1 million--on an application that in many ways aggregates tasks otherwise performed by free tools that come with the various storage devices. To differentiate their products, storage management suite vendors are starting to move away from being just technical plumbing tools.

Mark Davis, CreekPath's president and chief executive officer, says his company is going to "stop building software that manages hardware and start building applications that provide true business value." In the next version of its suite, due in the first half of this year, CreekPath will add business analytics to its application that will help businesses better plan and forecast their storage needs. CA's BrightStor Storage Command Center, which is one of the BrightStor r11.5 components, provides similar capabilities.

In addition to closer business alignment, storage management suites are adding more advanced features, such as easier SAN management for tasks like storage provisioning and event correlation capabilities to identify problems. Wizard-based provisioning and event correlation in EMC SAN Advisor and HP Storage Essentials are examples of this trend. The Aperi reference platform (see "The Aperi initiative"), spearheaded by IBM and supported by other storage vendors, is focused on commoditizing and unifying basic element management. "Vendors shouldn't spend their time re-implementing the low-level plumbing, but should focus on higher level management like automation and ILM [information lifecycle management]," says Jamie Gruener, storage marketing manager, IBM Tivoli.

This was first published in May 2006

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