IBM refreshes Novus SRM, lays out software strategy

The first refresh of Novus' SERP broadens its support for heterogeneous SRM tools, but it keeps customers waiting for better backup reporting support from IBM.

IBM has been quietly rolling out a new release of the Storage Enterprise Research Planner (SERP) software it acquired with Novus Consulting Group Inc. last October.

Although it has yet to officially unveil the upgrade, IBM has been informing customers of new features. SERP creates a business intelligence layer that pulls data in from vendor-specific monitoring tools. Version 4.3 will broaden the list of supported tools with the addition of a universal data collector and software agents designed to interface with the back-end databases used by most storage resource management (SRM) tools, whether proprietary or homegrown.

"One of the challenges with SRM is that it's not standardized," said Bill Edgar, director of software engineering for the storage and data services software group at IBM. "And we've seen as many custom SRM tools as we've seen [proprietary tools]. This will streamline the process and make more tools supportable [by SERP]."

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Besides evaluating the health of devices reported on by individual SRM tools, SERP 4.3 will also evaluate the health of the actual SRM tools, including the frequency with which agents are refreshed and how current the reporting data is.

This feature requires API access to the tools and is supported on EMC's ControlCenter, Hewlett-Packard's Storage Essentials, Hitachi Data Systems' HSSM and HDvM, and NetApp's Operations Manager.

IBM is deepening SERP's support for NetApp. The new version supports SRM software from NetApp subsidiary Onaro Inc. and collects Q-tree information on NetApp filers.

IBM seeks collaboration, not integration

Sean Garvey, IBM's director of storage and data services and former CEO of NovusCG, said there are no plans to integrate SERP too closely with existing IBM products. Instead, he said, IBM intends to take an asset-based approach to its software portfolio, exchanging information between engineering teams but not melding projects together. One example Garvey gave of the planned collaboration is relying on expertise from members of the Softek data migration software development team to create an agentless version of SERP. Softek Storage Solutions Corp. was another vendor IBM acquired last year.

Garvey said the plan is to keep products separate but complementary to IBM's flagship Tivoli software. "There are Tivoli shops and non-Tivoli shops," he said. "We feel we're stronger separate, but supporting [Tivoli]."

It remains unclear if SERP will eventually add support for backup reporting and monitoring software, something customers clamored for at the last Tivoli Storage Manager refresh in November. Despite rumors that IBM would acquire Bocada Communications Systems Inc. or Servergraph for data protection monitoring (DPM) before the NovusCG deal, IBM has yet to bring a DPM tool in-house. IBM does sell Bocada products, however.

"If they squeeze SERP into Tivoli, they risk losing objectivity," said Andrew Reichman, a Forrester Research analyst. But he said adding backup reporting remains on the to-do list for IBM. "I'm surprised IBM hasn't bought Bocada, and I'm surprised EMC hasn't bought WysDM," he added. "It's a big piece of the storage puzzle not being addressed head-on by the major systems vendors."

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