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|One tool is often all you need|
The holistic view
Of course, life would be much simpler if a single robust management tool could integrate the performance management data of all the SAN components and provide a synchronized, holistic view into the environment. A number of vendors claim to provide such a tool. However, each vendor takes a different approach. Basically, the tools can be grouped into three general categories:
- The tools that have grown from managing just their appliance to a more holistic view.
- The tools that have traditionally taken an application focus, but are now seeking to drill down into the storage network.
- New players who can situate themselves however they want.
While both companies have stated that these are their objectives, they're following slightly different paths to get there. One area where they both agree is in the adoption and integration of the new SMI-S storage standards into the implementation of their solution. Similar to what the simple network management protocol (SNMP) did for the IP world in terms of monitoring and reporting on performance, the emerging storage management initiative specifications (SMI-S) seek to do much the same for the storage networking space. EMC and HDS plan to get the necessary information they need from the operating systems and databases by deploying agents on the servers attached to the storage network.
From there, the design of their products differs in a couple of aspects. First, where EMC does not already have API agreements in place to report on the advanced functionality within its competitors' storage arrays, they are looking to reverse-engineer the solution. HDS, on the other hand, is looking to obtain the necessary APIs by purchasing them from its competitors. Second, EMC's recent acquisition of BMC's Storage Patrol product may give them a short-term edge over many of the competitors in this market. It now has something most of the others do not--performance management tools designed independently, plus its own tools.
Companies such as Computer Associates (CA), IBM/Tivoli and Veritas Corp. fall into the second group of companies looking to expand their traditional software base. For example, CA expects BrightStor SAN Manager to eventually link back into UniCenter to provide an enterprisewide console for LAN, WAN and SAN performance reporting and management at the host level. IBM/Tivoli also looks to match CA's initiative by tying its IBM/Tivoli Storage Area Network Manager back into its IBM/Tivoli Enterprise Console at some point in the future. Veritas is also looking to capitalize on its deployment on its existing server based Volume Manager and File System software and use it in conjunction with SANPoint Control to offer a similar enterprise console.
Yet for these Category 2 companies to get the level of detail needed to solve really thorny performance management problems, they need what the storage array and switch vendors have--the APIs. The new SMI-S standards grant them greater visibility into these environments by discovering switch bottlenecks and hot spots on storage subsystems. But they will eventually need more than just these standards to provide the advanced functionalities such as dynamic performance tuning on storage arrays already offered by their counterparts with the legacy hardware focus. In this respect, IBM/Tivoli's software may have a short-term advantage over their competitors in this category because the same parent company owns both the hardware and software parts needed to complete the equation.
The final group of vendors bringing the holistic offering to the table is the independent companies who have no legacy hardware or software they need to build into the equation. Companies such as AppIQ, CreekPath Systems and InterSAN can focus more on building performance management software that meets customer requirements than trying to integrate with legacy hardware and software.
However, Category 3 companies will struggle to get a foothold in organizations. There are only two times administrators care about performance: when they initially set up the system and when a problem exists. Other than that, administrators have better things to do than watch performance monitors oscillate between 20% and 80% utilization rates.
This was first published in October 2003