EMC's Storage Configuration Advisor provides policy-based monitoring, overlaps other EMC SRM offerin

EMC Storage Configuration Advisor provides policy-based monitoring of a storage infrastructure, but overlaps with other tools in the vendor's storage resource management portfolio.

EMC Corp. today launched Storage Configuration Advisor, an addition to its data center management software suite that can provide agentless policy-based monitoring of the storage infrastructure.

Storage Configuration Advisor (SCA) was developed by EMC based on IP from its nLayers acquisition in 2006, according to Kevin Gray, director of EMC's Resource Management Software Group (RMSG). Storage Configuration Advisor is aimed at large shops with complex environments, where "it's not that IT doesn't understand what the configurations are supposed to be, but they have thousands of servers and may not be aware of all the issues at a given moment," Gray said.

The software resides on an appliance on the network and uses industry-standard data collection interfaces, including Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), Secure Shell (SSH), Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S).

Customers set policies defining requirements for their environment such as high availability and compliance best practices when deploying Storage Configuration Advisor. They also set policies defining the severity level of different configuration violations. The software then tracks the storage environment in near real-time, notifying the user of policy violations prioritized by severity, along with related changes to the infrastructure that may have caused them.

Other RMSG software for monitoring parts of the data center include Application Discovery Manager and IT Compliance Advisor Application Edition, Server Configuration Manager for servers and Voyence for networking.

These applications and Storage Configuration Advisor will eventually hook into another product called the Configuration Analytics Manager to provide a single point of control with a view of the whole data center. Configuration Analytics Manager uses a separate database from the tools underneath it and requires a separate license. The cost of a Storage Configuration Advisor appliance (hardware and software) to monitor 10 TB of storage is $38,480. The integration between Storage Configuration Advisor and Configuration Analytics Manager isn't yet generally available.

As with other products in EMC's broad portfolio, there's overlap in its storage resource management (SRM) offerings that may cause confusion. EMC's storage division includes resource management tools, including EMC ControlCenter, ControlCenter StorageScope and ControlCenter SAN Advisor. EMC ControlCenter is used for active management of the storage environment, to make configuration changes and provision storage, which Storage Configuration Advisor doesn't do. StorageScope, meanwhile, reports on performance from the host to the array, while SAN Advisor checks storage configurations against EMC's interoperability matrix using discovery technology from EMC ControlCenter.

Gray said SAN Advisor's features may eventually become part of Storage Configuration Advisor. "At this point in time, I don't want to comment on the future of it, but we're looking at building those capabilities in [to SCA]," he said.

EMC officials have also talked about integrating EMC ControlCenter, Application Discovery Manager and its Data Protection Advisor backup reporting software.

Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, expects EMC to complete integration of its software portfolio, but it probably won't happen quickly. "The challenge when you're trying to work toward an 'end game' is that you start with a lot of moving parts," he said. "Putting all the pieces together takes time."

According to Mike Fisch, director of storage and networking at Wellesley, Mass.-based Clipper Group, there's value in having the tools in separate product families. "It also reflects [EMC's] strategy of offering standalone tools that solve specific problems, without requiring customers to commit to an entire portfolio or framework," Fisch wrote in an email to SearchStorage.com.

The slow coalescence of an EMC data center management framework pushes along a nascent market for data center automation software first sparked when Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. acquired Opsware Inc. in 2007. EMC quickly followed with the acquisition of Voyence. HP has recently moved more aggressively toward automated data center management software.

All of that sounds similar to what EMC subsidiary VMware Inc. has been trying to do in creating a data center operating system, but "small environments are easier to completely virtualize – they're not running a mainframe or Unix," ESG's Laliberte said. "In the large shops EMC calls on, VMware can't cover everything."

It also sounds similar to software frameworks that have previously tried to realize the "single pane of glass" vision. However, Laliberte said the new automation frameworks "will offer a lot more intelligence – they're not just massive trap collectors."

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