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Veritas SANPoint Control compared with EMC ControlCenter

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The server
The SANPoint Control server is at the heart of this SAN resource management solution. The SANPoint Control Server interacts with the SAL layer to discover SAN resources, provision storage and maintain a real-time data store, as well as provide for access control (e.g., zoning, LUN Security), policy management and reporting.

Discovery is made possible with several explorer modules within the SAL process (sald). Each explorer module is only interested in the SAN components it was coded to discover. There are HBA explorers and array, zoning and tape explorers, as well as a management server explorer. Veritas made the SAN access layer more flexible and extensive by allowing additional modules to be added to the SAL in future releases. This means that with each added module, you need to upgrade the sald process--possibly taking other working modules out of commission should there be a problem with the upgrade. Test each new release of the sald process in an isolated area with the newly added hardware or software that SANPoint Control is managing.

There are two methods of discovery: in-band and out-of-band. In-band discovery takes place over Fibre Channel (FC), using the protocol's common transport (CT) as a communication medium. Out-of-band discovery can take place over TCP or SNMP using IP as the communication medium. Applications requiring the highest levels of availability will want

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their storage assets being managed and monitored over both transports for redundancy reasons. For direct-attached storage (DAS), the SAL will use a form of SCSI pass-through or other proprietary method for discovering LUNs.

Provisioning, or storage access control, is brought about through zoning and LUN security. Zoning is accomplished by SANPoint Control interacting with the switch vendor's API. Discovered zones can be changed and new zones created either through the zoning wizard or the command line interface. Vendor cooperation isn't equal in this area of management. For example, switch port hard zoning is only available with Brocade switches. All other levels of management functionality appear to be even.

SANPoint Control's strengths
Centralizes the management of storage resources into one console
Components are supported on the latest versions of Solaris, HP-UX, Windows 2000 and NT platforms
Can discover and launch Veritas and non-Veritas software products
A LUN security wizard simplifies the task of provisioning storage into one operation
Provisioning and grouping of SAN resources, monitoring and policy creation, as well as reporting are available
Veritas recently purchased Precise Software Inc., and gains W. Quinn, which is a sound storage resource management (SRM) product

LUN security is the collective term used to describe the tasks involved in binding a storage unit to a storage port on an array and masking that storage unit to a particular host. Veritas includes a LUN security wizard to streamline the tasks of provisioning storage into one operation. This feature is a must-have in all SAN resource management applications if they are to plug the leak that's letting money flood out of IT budgets.

The real-time data being collected by the explorers is staged into the SAL data store. From there, the SAN access layer agent translates information in the data store into XML-formatted files that are to be passed on to client consoles for field population. The SAL agent is also responsible for user authentication when commands are passed to the server, and it facilitates communication between the server and other hosts running the agent.

SANPoint Control database server
SANPoint Control also requires a second database structure in the database server. The database server of choice is Sybase's Adaptive Server Anywhere, which is an ODBC-compliant relational database. The database is installed when you install the SANPoint Control server and is used to log alarm data coming from the alarm service in your server. By default, the database stores data over a 30-day period. However, hourly updated data starts to be aged out of the database after 15 days, with less frequent updates aged out after 30 days. Using a compliant relational database gives the administrator the ability to export alarm data to various graphical applications for executive review or to track changes.

Alarm data can be logged on a user-configurable frequency of time, varying the space requirements of the database as the element of time is reduced. Another variable in the database space requirements is the number of device ports that are in your SAN. Device ports are the variable, not simply the entire device because, while an FC-attached tape drive may have only one port, a SAN switch will have more than one port, with each port having its own statistical alarms.

You can perform a hot backup of the database server with the dbbackup utility in Sybase ASA. This utility copies the database file visdb.db and its log file from its installation directory to your specified directory. You can't use OS commands to copy these files while the database server is active--you must use the utility to ensure data integrity is maintained.

However, the restoration of the database server must take place while the SANPoint Control or Sybase ASA server is stopped. Once stopped, the administrator needs to preserve the existing database and log files before copying the backup copy of these files to the production directory. Before restarting the database, synchronization between the backed-up database and the current log file may be desirable. This is accomplished with the dbeng7 utility, whose syntax is documented in the admin guide. After synchronization and copying the files to the installation directory, simply start SANPoint Control as you would normally.

Policy management is implemented through SANPoint Control's policy service. The policy service is responsible for managing the relationships between SAN resources and the statistical thresholds being monitored by the administrator. A policy then is defined by the monitoring of statistical thresholds, the raising of an alarm, and the appropriate action to take when a condition has been met. The supported actions include e-mail, invoking scripts and trap notification to the console or other management framework (e.g., Hewlett-Packard OpenView).

SANPoint Control 3.5.1 comes bundled with user-configurable policies. This helps make the solution usable in a shorter time than expected. The policies shipped are reliant on the monitored device's management information base for access to its management properties.

This was first published in July 2003

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