Management still a pain point for storage admins

Users want simplified storage management tools and Brocade, during its user conference this week, says it's working hard to meet that demand.

LAS VEGAS -- Getting back to basics, incorporating automation and doing more with less are still tops on the wish lists of users, and these concepts were key to the reigning vendor's pitch at this week's Brocade Conference 2003.

The need for simplified management tools is being driven by a multitude of factors, including exploding data capacity, less money for new hardware and software, and continued performance demands.

"We must continue to do better in simplifying storage management," said Greg Reyes, chairman and CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based Brocade Communications Systems Inc., addressing attendees at the conference. "Customers need to get the most out of the investments they made; they can't rip and replace."

Reyes also discussed the OEM availability of the switch vendor's new fabric operating environment, Fabric OS, which is aimed at easing management burdens in storage area networks (SANs).

Included in the new Fabric OS is an API scripting tool that allows users to customize scripts to automate repetitious management tasks. The new software also includes an optional layer of security that Brocade says helps centralize security management policies and reduce the risk of network downtime.

Users say just the act of implementing a SAN is making their lives easier when it comes to manageability.

Marty LeFebvre, vice president of technology strategy for New York-based Nielsen Media Research is running a SAN that helps the company set advertising rates, a $60 billion dollar-a-year industry. His network currently has 60 terabytes (TB) of production data and is backing up 110 TB per month -- that's up from 10 TB of production data and 26 TB of backup just three years ago.

LeFebvre says there were six driving factors for his SAN implementation. The company wanted a centralized team of storage employees, a single point of control (for policy and procedures), large-volume purchases to save money, a single operational focus that would move storage data to the center of the network, high availability and performance, and more informed planning procedures.

A future possibility LeFebvre will consider for bolstering the SAN is the addition of a storage resource management (SRM) tool. He hopes that this will further help Nielsen define and automate storage policy.

Another true believer in SAN technology is Rich Havard, technologist for Allentown, Pa.-based PPL Corporate, an energy company. Havard is running a dual-fabric 340+ port SAN with more than 20 TB of data. His advice to users: when implementing a dual-fabric SAN, try to set up a level of symmetry between the fabrics.

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