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Users argue for and against SRM

Jo Maitland, News Director

CHICAGO -- Storage resource management (SRM) software is the only way to survive for users with large, heterogeneous environments, but for some smaller shops, minimizing the number of vendors they use is a

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good way to avoid using SRM.

Robert Stevenson, technology strategist at Nielson Media Research, manages 1.2 petabytes of data across a heterogeneous environment that consists primarily of EMC Corp. DMX and Clariion arrays -- plus a mix of all the other major players in the market. Nielson uses EMC ECC software to manage its DMX arrays, AppIQ to manage its heterogeneous systems and Computer Associates Inc. to manage its mainframe boxes.

"EMC ECC does a fabulous job with its own products; for the DMX you can't get better than that," Stevenson said. "But they're not the best for managing a heterogeneous environment -- that's how we ended up with AppIQ.

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Stevenson said he doubts that one single SRM vendor will ever be able to do everything and pointed out that the SMI-S standard cannot perform heterogeneous provisioning. "I'd like to get the right feature sets from a couple of different players, a great reporting tool, a great provisioning tool, and then work the standards bodies to be able to move these players in and out more rapidly as one innovates faster than another."

Nielson is also aiming to use more tools for task management so that they can free up their administrators to work on more valuable activities. Stevenson said he would like to see more chargeback and capacity planning tools that look at granular levels of usage across tiers of storage.

Similarly, Baylor College of Medicine was forced to look for management software that could manage a disparate mix of vendors. The college was able to consolidate its central IT group on Hitachi Data Systems storage, but all of its departments run a mix of Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), IBM and EMC. And these departments do not have storage expertise so it fell to the central IT group to manage these disparate arrays. "We have no control over what's coming into the environment so we had to find a tool that could manage everything," said Vo Tran, storage architect at Baylor College.

He selected AppIQ's SAN management and SRM software for its support of the Common Information Model (CIM) standard. "Being CIM-compliant and CIM-enabled was crucial because we needed to be able to talk directly to so many different products, including host bus adapters and switches," Tran said.

At the other end of the scale, Ibis Consulting Inc., an electronic discovery services company with about 100 employees, has managed to avoid SRM products altogether.

Ibis manages close to 200 terabytes of storage on BlueArc Inc. NAS devices virtualized behind Acopia Networks Inc. switches. "I'd rather not have to add another layer of complexity, and then add more people to manage it," said Cliff Dutton, chief technology officer at Ibis.

The company was previously running EMC and HP arrays but needed instantaneous provisioning. "BlueArc's FPGAs gives us line-speed access to the arrays," he said, adding that they are also easy to administer. Ibis is able to use its Acopia switches as a storage management tool as they are storage vendor agnostic, Dutton said.

Likewise, Schenck Business Solutions' goal was to keep things simple and eliminate vendors wherever possible. This 500-person company was able to re-engineer its entire storage environment from Fibre Channel Clariion devices to EqualLogic Inc. iSCSI systems, which James Tarala, chief information officer at Schenck, said perform "consistently better than the older Clariion products."

He added, "We are driving our key suppliers to add more functionality to their base products rather than having to add another layer of management software." For Schenck, the price tag on most SRM products was too high. "Up to $100,000 did not fit out budget, so we push standards to minimize our management, and then use out-of-the-box utilities."

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Related Topics: SAN management, VIEW ALL TOPICS

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