User needed more than SAN management tools could give

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TIRED OF WAITING for EMC or another tier-one vendor to deliver root-cause analysis software for its SAN, Countrywide Financial Corp. purchased and deployed Onaro's SANscreen to manage its 5,000-port Brocade fabric.

With almost two petabytes of capacity, the vast majority of it on EMC devices, "we were looking to them to provide this functionality," says Michael Crocker, VP of enterprise storage-area management at the real-estate mortgage lender. Unfortunately, "they just aren't there yet," he says. EMC has kept Countrywide apprised of its work on porting SMARTS, a network fault-correlation package that it bought last year, but Crocker says he expects it will take some time for it to work well with Fibre Channel (FC). Last month, EMC announced that SMARTS could discover its NAS devices and hinted at an FC release this summer.

Specifically, Countrywide brought in Onaro to report on and monitor the availability of its paths from the host, through the fabric and down to the storage. "It does that quite well," says Crocker.

Upon implementation, SANscreen discovered the Countrywide environment and found that "overall, we were in excellent shape," says Crocker. "There were some issues that we had to attend to, but we knew beforehand that we were going to find some stuff."

SANscreen now monitors the environment 24/7, alerting administrators to failures or policy violations with SNMP or through a client on storage administrators' desktops. Countrywide also uses Onaro's what-if capabilities to ascertain whether or not a server has an alternate path to storage before doing a data migration or a fabric update. "You can never do too much testing," notes Crocker.

Last month, Onaro announced SANscreen 3.0 and two additional modules, one to monitor performance (rather than availability) and another to manage replication. Crocker is unsure whether or not Countrywide needs either module; "it depends on the kind of information that they discover," he says.

When it comes to application performance, "the SAN is always guilty until proven innocent," says Crocker. In a perfect world, the information Onaro collects should help storage staff prove to the rest of the IT department, that "Look, it's not the SAN's fault."

Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, Boulder, CO, says Onaro is ahead of its competition. "There are lots of SAN management products out there that can interrogate the environment," he says. "Analyzing the results is another [thing], and that's where they've distinguished themselves."

--Alex Barrett

This was first published in April 2006

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