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Users evaluate SAN reporting tool

Beth Pariseau
Onaro Inc., preannounced version 3.0 of its SANScreen SAN monitoring tool this week, which will now include the ability to monitor SAN performance in real time and validate replication

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configurations. Users said that they are primarily going to upgrade for the performance monitoring piece, and they will have to wait for their disaster recovery (DR) plans to catch up before testing out the replication module.

The performance module, called Performance Insight, will allow users to analyze not just static configurations but to measure the performance of those configurations in reality. In other words, the new version will not just tell users whether or not a failover path will work in theory -- it will report on whether or not the failover path is working when it's put into action.

Meanwhile, the replication assurance module will validate "static" replication configurations to avoid blunders like forgetting to replicate newly added volumes. A "time-based" monitoring tool for replication, like the new module for performance, will be added in the second quarter, according to the company's vice president of marketing, Bryan Semple.

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According to SANScreen user Glen Gambal, data center manager for JetBlue Airways, who is using EMC Corp.'s Symmetrix Remote Data Facility for replication locally, said he hasn't tested the Onaro replication module yet -- for his purposes, Gambal said, he found the performance module much more enticing.

Gambal, who has been using SANScreen since December with an 8.5 terabyte (TB) SAN made up of 5 TB of Symmetrix 2000 and 3.5 TB Clariion CX700 arrays connected with Brocade 24000 Fibre Channel switches, said the primary purpose of SANScreen for JetBlue is its ability to manage several large migration projects it is currently undertaking -- a SAN consolidation and migration from Forrest Hills, New York, to a new data center in Gordon City on Long Island, New York, and the establishment, much further off, of a new DR data center in Salt Lake City.

"When we get the DR site set up, we'll probably look at the replication module -- right now we haven't tested it yet," Gambal said. "But first, we're most interested in the performance monitoring and the customizable reports."

The new reports, which will allow version 3.0 users more options in creating charts tracking trends in everything from configuration failures to the time it takes IT to fix bugs, include one improvement Gambal said he had been lobbying for -- the ability to sort SAN performance and configuration data according to dollar values for purchasing storage.

"That is a tremendous help for us in speaking to upper management about new projects we want to implement," he said. "It does the analysis and puts it in a nice graphical presentation for us automatically."

"We'll probably upgrade at this point because of the ability to monitor performance," said Jacob Roersma, manager of network engineering for Priority Health, a SANScreen user since 2004. Like Gambal, Roersma said he would have to wait for his DR plan to catch up before testing the replication module.

"Our DR site isn't fully online yet," Roersma said. Priority Health's 92 TB SAN system is entirely made up of Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) hardware for both storage and servers; Roersma said he would be using HP's Continuous Access replication tool for replication to his DR site. According to Roersma, when the DR site comes online, Priority Health will be evaluating both the replication module and Onaro's DR change management tool, announced last year.

"It will be key for us," he said. "It's where we see the most value long term -- but it's not something we can implement right away."

Among other improvements to SANScreen not addressed by the users are new support for EMC's Enterprise Control Center (ECC) product in which SANScreen will monitor whether or not ECC agents have been installed correctly on every server in an environment, as well as improvements to its analytics engine that will mean users have a higher capacity ceiling for how much they can monitor with one instance of the tool -- up to a year's worth of data and tens of thousands of ports.

Meanwhile, Roersma said the big improvement he's waiting for from Onaro is a further integration with storage resource management (SRM) tools.

"It's nice to be able to see what we're doing and what it is we should do," he said, "and there are some things like LUN masking we can do through SANScreen already. But I'm waiting for the ability to get a report from Onaro and just tell it, 'OK, go ahead and do that,' whether it's through an SRM tool or on its own."

Roersma hasn't implemented an SRM tool yet, although his obvious choice is AppIQ Inc., recently acquired by HP.

"It'll still only do about 50% of what we need it to do on a day-to-day basis. There are still some things that we would have to do manually, like continuous access LUNs and RAID array replication. We're not going to implement it until it does at least 90% of what we need," he said.

In the meantime, Roersma said, while he waits for improvements to either SANScreen, SRM tools or both, "You kind of have to do the same thing twice. "It would be nice if we could get one integrated product someday," he said.

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