Brocade Communications Systems Inc. has made available a free tool to help its users get a better picture of what's going on in their network, just as long as it's a Brocade fabric.
The tool will detect other vendors' switches, according to Jay Kidd, chief technology officer at Brocade, but it won't provide the same level of detail on the status of these devices. "We'll let McData provide this information to its customers," Kidd said.
The SAN Health tool, which runs on a PC and analyzes the fabric through a switch's IP management port, provides a snapshot of inventory and switch configurations for tracking and documenting what's on the fabric. It also offers a point-in-time topology diagram that shows the logical connections of all switches, connected devices and Inter-Switch Links, and captures historical performance data to monitor traffic patterns over time.
Kidd noted that the tool is not an active management product to change what's going on in the fabric, and neither is it a predeployment tool for designing a SAN. It should be used in concert with management software like EMC Corp.'s ControlCenter or Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView products that tweak configurations, he said.
What's the catch?
To get the topology report and historical data information, users must run the software and then submit the findings to Brocade for analysis. Brocade then crunches the numbers and sends the report back to the user. At this point, Brocade will make various suggestions about how to improve the performance of the fabric.
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Kidd insists the idea is not to "send a sales rep out with a purchase order" but to "identify where SAN optimization opportunities might be possible." Brocade will use the data to see, for example, what percentage of fabrics are 1 Gbit versus 2 Gbit and will aggregate the data to help prioritize product features in new switches.
The SAN Health tool has been available on Brocade's website since mid-September and roughly 1,100 reports have been provided to the company's partners and SAN users, Kidd said. He added that 82% of users had run the tool multiple times. The largest fabric to use the tool has 1,400 ports, but the average is around seven to eight switches or approximately 80 ports.
Cisco Systems Inc. said it has been offering this capability with its Fabric Manager Server for some time. But for really sophisticated SAN management, users should check out Onaro Inc.'s SANscreen predictive change management software that runs continuously against an operating fabric. It can model proposed changes to existing SAN configurations, and identify errors and vulnerabilities before they happen.
Remote SAN lab
For users that don't have the time to leave the office, or the budget, Brocade also recently launched a virtual classroom program that provides live, instructor-led training over the Internet. In addition, the company has stepped up its certification program with a new SAN Designer exam that acknowledges an understanding of building a SAN from basic components through the integration of industry applications and storage solutions.