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Veritas SANPoint Control compared with EMC ControlCenter

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The alarm service complements the policy service by employing collectors to gather statistical and performance metrics from the SNMP and SAL layers. The alarm service then feeds this information to the policy service that acts upon the received data according to policy. Collected information consists of SAN traffic, error and status changes, as well as environmental data. All of this can be included in defining additional policies for the purpose of tracking service level agreements between your vendors and application support team. You may have a particular switch port with an increasing number of CRC errors over a period of days. If you're administering a SAN at a brokerage firm, wouldn't it be nice to have this alarm raised before the failure and remove a possibly failing GBIC as a controlled event instead of at 9:30 on a Monday morning?

SANPoint Control ships with approximately 40 out-of-the box reports that can be modified and executed against the database server. Reports include data relating to inventory and capacity, as well as performance. By using these reports, I was able to see exactly how much total storage was available in my SAN, how much storage was allocated to each host and even each application, depending on SANPoint Control's ability to support that layered application. For example, with the Oracle Overview feature, you can report on the instance name, version and tablespace characteristics in a glance. The firmware

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and device driver versions of SAN resources can also be tracked using the reporting feature. This information--along with reports detailing how devices are connected--can be invaluable during certain disaster recovery scenarios.

And like ECC, you can define performance reports that give you some idea of port utilization over some defined period of time, giving you eyes into the data center during overnight processing. Capacity planning is obviously the greatest beneficiary of this feature.

Almost equivalent in functionality to ECC's storage-specific agents, the agent extends the view of the server by exploring SAN objects that may not be available to the server (e.g., SAN islands). The agent is made up of several explorers that are called upon by the server to "walk" the connected SAN to discover and report on its resources. Because SAN islands are so prevalent in today's data centers, agents are necessary to aggregate status and statistical information into the data store. Before SANPoint Control 3.5.1, the server and agent couldn't reside on the same computer, thereby making the overall solution more expensive. Therefore, if you have an older version installed, apply the appropriate patch to gain this and other new features related to the patch.

SPC 3.5.1 pricing starts at $20,000.00 for to manage 32 ports and starts to climb as application-specific agents (e.g., Oracle, MS Exchange) are added.

Conclusions
The solution addresses many of the pain points experienced while managing SAN resources. The provisioning and grouping of SAN resources, monitoring and policy creation, as well as reporting can all be found in SANPoint Control 3.5.1. The scalability can be seen at the agent level, where control agents can be deployed as the number of SAN ports increase. Heterogeneous support of OS platforms, SAN switches and the storage resources that connect them are vast enough to include most IT applications, with the exception of the mainframe.

A support area where SANPoint Control is lacking is in storage resource management (SRM). It mostly addresses the management of SAN resources from the aspect of physical and logical availability to the application. What SANPoint Control is missing is an SRM module that allows the administrator to set policies on who, what, where and why data is stored on these SAN resources. But with the recent purchase of Precise Software Inc., Veritas gains W. Quinn, which is a sound SRM product and stands on its own merit.

Which product is right for you?
If you had the opportunity to read last month's article on EMC ECC, you have now witnessed that these storage resource management solutions are not far apart in terms of design and product offering. Both have central servers that call upon distributed agents to gather protocol data and populate some form of central data store. And from this central data store, reports and policies can be created. Both products take advantage of the volumes of statistical data available via the FC protocol. This adds value to these competing products, but doesn't in and of itself make either product superior.

The features I feel separated these products are ease of management and heterogeneous support. SANPoint Control requires a separate Sybase database to house alarms coming from the alarm service. I didn't find this to be an overtaxing administrative effort; however, it's another point of possible failure or corruption and needs to be protected. As far as heterogeneous support, both products have their respective hurdles to jump in order to gain API access into competing vendor's products. However, I found MVS support in EMC's ECC to be an advantageous point for applications being serviced by mainframes.

Where Veritas' SANPoint Control surpasses ECC is that it can discover and launch Veritas and non-Veritas software products from a single console, streamlining management. This advantage could be significant, considering the number of Volume Manager, NetBackup and Cluster Server installations there are to date and the time you are spending administering these products.

So which one should you buy? Both. The more dependent you are on EMC hardware, the more value you will get out of Enterprise Control Center. If you have EMC arrays and Veritas storage management software sprinkled throughout your enterprise, you have to ask yourself the question: "Is it more costly to manage the EMC or perhaps HP StorageWorks arrays and SAN switches or manage Veritas' Volume Manager, NetBackup and Cluster Server?"

If you don't have any EMC arrays, but have an abundance of Veritas software supporting your storage infrastructure, you may pick SANPoint Control. Whichever you choose, make sure you choose the solution that reduces your greatest financial management burden you're contending with now or will be in the near future.

Are we there yet? No, not yet, but with these product offerings, we're considerably closer to seeing a useful solution that really reduces the management efforts of the organization, thereby making corporations leaner, more flexible and able to sustain growth.

This was first published in July 2003

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