Will Smarts overload EMC ControlCenter?

Users, analysts discuss the pros and cons of EMC's integration of Smarts' event automation software with ControlCenter.

EMC is not scheduled to close its acquisition of System Management Arts (Smarts) Inc. until the first quarter of 2005, but talk has already started about how EMC will integrate Smarts' software into its Enterprise ControlCenter (ECC) storage management software.

Smarts' software, called InCharge, locates devices and systems in a network and gathers information about what the problems are. It can be installed as a standalone product or integrated with network and systems management products such as HP's OpenView, BMC's Patrol and Computer Associates' Unicenter.

How many more bolt-on applications will they try to roll into an already over-complicated interface?"
Michael Passe,
senior storage engineerBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Smarts has not, to date, used its software for storage, but EMC plans to integrate it with its Enterprise ControlCenter (ECC) products. The goal is to take Smarts event diagnostics software and integrate it with storage devices so that it can tell you when something's wrong with a host bus adapter (HBA), switch, disk array or tape library.

Michael Passe, senior storage engineer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston is a user of ECC 5.2 and likes the idea of event automation because it gives a more holistic view of the systems that storage supports. "You can self-correct or clear errors based on things other than just storage."

Randy Kerns, senior partner at The Evaluator Group, Greenwood Village, Colo., said that event automation offers several advantages to the user -- most notably, it reduces the potential for human error.

"With automation, there should be less administrative staff required, which is a big deal because of the growth in capacity demand," said Kerns. "It is difficult to hire more people, so automation helps deal with the growth."

Passe, whose data center at Beth Israel Deaconess includes a Symmetrix 3930 and two Clariion CX600s, is not entirely convinced that the new features will improve ECC. He was more concerned with making ECC easier to use, saying that the "interface is cluttered and needs to be rewritten to make Clariion 100% manageable."

Passe added: "How many more bolt-on applications will they try to roll into an already over-complicated interface?"

On the other hand, William Hurley, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group (ESG) predicts that the Smarts integration will allow ECC users to manage more data more efficiently. Hurley said that when integrated with ECC, the Smarts software will work like a manager of managers, gathering and reporting on storage area network (SAN), LAN and backup events through one common console.

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"Without Smarts, each technology alerts its own management tool, presenting just a fraction of the information necessary to resolve a problem," said Hurley.

Lars Linden, a principal at State Street Global Advisors in Boston uses ECC 5.2 to monitor State Street's DMX arrays. Linden is taking a "wait-and-see approach", but welcomes the Smarts integration as a way to understand an entire environment.

Linden said that the Smarts integration will be exciting as long as EMC stays open to all technologies, rather than just EMC products.

"Right now, monitoring the connection from HBA to an array is lacking with ECC," said Linden. "My hope is that Smarts will improve ECC's ability to monitor heterogeneous technologies."

Kerns said that users have the right to be concerned about how seamless this integration will be, and predicts that although integrating Smarts will help deal with data growth, it will come with procedural changes within IT. "When it is integrated and how well it's done will be the true measure," he said.

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