Article

Storage resource management services offer visibility and optimization advice

Todd Erickson

While storage resource management (SRM) tools have yet to catch on in a big way, providers are starting to push them as managed services to improve storage utilization, capacity planning,

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monitoring and reporting.

Product vendors, IT consultants and VARs are offering storage resource management tools as services. Unisys Corp. got into the storage resource management services game by launching its Storage Resource Analysis (SRA) service based on Storage Fusion Ltd.'s software last month. Other prominent storage resource management services include GlassHouse Technologies Inc.'s Optics for Storage and SANpulse Technologies Inc.'s SAN Blueprint.

Optics for Storage provides storage reporting and customized reports through a Web portal. SAN Blueprint, based on SANpulse's SANlogics software, is used primarily to discover and analyze a storage environment before a migration or consolidation project. Integrators and VARs offer services built around storage resource management tools such as SolarWinds Inc.'s Tek-Tools Storage Profiler.

Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at Stillwater, Minn.-based StorageIO Group, said regardless of how they're marketed, the services mainly look at how storage assets are used and how much capacity is utilized.

"Do you buy the tool, or do you just rent it?" Schulz asked. "Some are called SRM services, some are called storage planning, and some are called remedial storage services."

Unisys offers SRA as a Software as a Service (SaaS) for storage optimization, using Storage Fusion's storage evaluation and optimization software.

Nikki Wilton, director of information and data management at Unisys' Worldwide Storage Program, said the storage management service was developed in response to a 2008 customer survey in which 51% of respondents believed their capacity utilization was below 50%. The Unisys Information and Data Management survey questioned 80 European enterprises with at least 400 TBs of storage.

Unisys aims the storage management service at large enterprises through direct sales and a few small channel partners. It will run its analytics and provide reports for free for organizations with at least 400 TB of stored data. The data collection software is agentless and works in EMC Corp., Hitachi Data Systems Corp., IBM and NetApp Inc. environments.

GlassHouse sells Optics for Storage as a service to customers who may be considering buying their own software, said Ashish Nadkarni, GlassHouse's practical lead for data mobility. He said GlassHouse adds information on how to use storage assets more efficiently.

"It essentially gives the customers a lens into their storage environment that they would have otherwise not gotten," Nadkarni said of the service. "Where our value add comes in is that we can not only provide that data to the customer, and that reporting to the customer, but we can wrap our tools and services around it."

The tools used to collect data from the environment may be installed on premise or managed remotely. Unisys and GlassHouse export the data to a Web portal for analysis. The service providers generate generic or custom reports that show capacity utilization and other metrics, similar to storage resource management products.

Both companies also offer different tiers of service attached to the storage management practice. GlassHouse presents three levels of Optics for Storage. The first is a one-time look into the storage environment that provides a snapshot of the customer's environment, as well as assessment services to report the data and determine optimization opportunities. The second tier of service includes everything from the first tier, plus an alerting feature. The alert feature doesn't drill down to the device level, but notifies designated personnel if the environment is nearing full capacity or if an entire array goes down. The third service level adds manager services. The customer basically turns over the storage environment to GlassHouse to manage.

StorageIO Group's Schulz said buyers should be aware of the storage resource management provider's objective, because services could be used to open the door to larger sales. They could be trying to get customers to buy additional software, or trying to rack up billable hours.

"You've got small companies where the sole purpose is selling that software," Schulz said. "You also have companies whose sole purpose is taking product and packaging it as a service. And then you've got the big vendors that have the product and have the services as part of their bigger umbrella."

 


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