To have a big picture view of your storage network, you need storage management software.
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Storage management software makes better use of resources and reduces manual tasks by gathering information about all of the elements in a storage network, rather than having vendor-specific software managing each array, HBA and switch.
This product roundup discusses how storage management software is used and how it is evolving.
Storage management software features a central management server, which works as a repository of information and metadata about all storage devices.
Agents installed on servers and in the SAN enable users to monitor, report on and control storage components. Storage management software can also determine how storage devices are being utilized, provide reports on usage patterns and the health of a network and provide automatic provisioning of capacity.
According to Alex Gorbansky, analyst at Taneja Group in Hopkinton, Mass., storage management software provides a broader, clearer view of storage while saving companies money. "It improves visibility into your assets. This will help make your IT staff more efficient and increase the amount of terabytes managed per administrator."
Who is most likely to benefit from storage management software? "Every organization that has networked storage should use it. But typically companies with multiple SANs, high port counts and large amounts of capacity," said Nancy Hurley, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), Milford, Mass.
Key vendors and products
All of the major systems vendors including EMC Corp., IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), Hitachi Data Systems Inc. (HDS), Sun Microsystems Inc. and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) offer storage management products, as do software vendors such as Veritas Software Corp. and Computer Associates International (CA). Smaller, independent companies such as AppIQ Inc., CreekPath Systems Inc. and Crosswalk Inc. offer storage management software as well.
Major players such as EMC with ControlCenter, IBM with Tivoli Total Storage Manager and HP with OpenView do well selling storage management software to existing customers that use EMC, IBM or HP hardware. But with companies implementing diverse storage, the independents are starting to take share from the big vendors by providing management of heterogeneous environments, Hurley said.
Hurley pointed to AppIQ as the most successful of the smaller companies, securing OEMs with HDS, Sun, HP, Engenio Information Technologies, Xiotech Corp. and SGI. "AppIQ uses an open standards-based platform to manage heterogeneous storage. It will be interesting to see if other vendors move in this direction," she said.
Gorbansky agreed that AppIQ's heterogeneous storage management sets it apart, but conceded that most companies do not buy their hardware and software separately. "If you're an EMC customer, you will most likely use ControlCenter. So a company like AppIQ will continue to expand through OEMs," he said.
Innovations and trends
The primary goal of storage management software is to reduce manual tasks, so automation is the most prominent innovation.
Hurley highlighted policy-based automation, where the management application automatically performs tasks that were previously done manually or with multiple software applications. Activities that can be automated include provisioning of capacity and migration and archiving of databases and e-mails.
John Webster, senior analyst and partner at Data Mobility Group, agreed that automating tasks will continue to increase users' control of their storage. "The ability to automate processes, if and when administrators feel comfortable, will improve management," he said.
Gorbansky mentioned change management as a new and interesting innovation and said EMC's recent addition to ContolCenter called SAN Advisor is leading the way. San Advisor helps companies plan, implement and validate changes to their SANs.
Startup Onaro Inc.'s SANscreen product also performs change management and SAN maintenance, as does CA's BrightStor SAN Designer.
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