SD 2004 preview: Plugging the holes in Tivoli Storage Manager

John Merryman knows the ins and outs of Tivoli's storage software. He has experienced Tivoli Storage Manager as an end user perspective, as a sales representative and now as a storage consultant for GlassHouse Technologies.

In this interview, Merryman shares his thoughts on where Tivoli's storage software comes up short, how IBM's internal strategies might affect end users and what to expect from his upcoming discussion at the Storage Decisions conference in April.

SearchStorage.com: What can users expect to learn from your upcoming presentation at Storage Decisions?
The presentation will focus on optimization strategies for Tivoli Storage Manager in different environments. This will involve case study information and real-life scenarios about how to optimize TSM operations at the server, device, network and client levels.

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SearchStorage.com: Does the fact that IBM sells servers, storage and software give the end user an edge or put them at a disadvantage when shopping for Tivoli's storage management software?
TSM supports a wide range of operating systems, storage subsystems, and tape devices. Customers who choose to run a TSM environment under a single-vendor architecture plan have a simplified support model (i.e., single vendor to choke if something breaks). I don't see Tivoli customers being at a disadvantage and, if anything, it's advantageous to have the option to choose key hardware components from a single manufacturer. The real delineation is going to be in terms of support and software maintenance delivery. Worst-case troubleshooting can involve storage device, operating system, TSM and device driver/firmware analysis. In a multi-vendor TSM hardware environment, problem resolution gets hairy when Vendor A starts pointing the finger at Vendor B, and so on. SearchStorage.com: IBM seems to be constantly in flux. It's reorganized its software operations several times in recent months. How do you think this might impact users?
I think the impact on users is general confusion around who their software representative will be next year. Several years ago IBM, Lotus and Tivoli each had a degree of autonomy. What IBM seems to be doing is consolidating software delivery and support into a more centralized model. From the perspective of being a TSM customer for the last few years before joining GlassHouse, the changes at IBM really don't impact software delivery. Some of IBM's software brands are also beginning to converge. A case in point is IBM's storage software division and Tivoli. The first version of their SAN File System fully supports both Tivoli Storage Manager and Tivoli SRM. But on the marketing side, this convergence isn't quite so clear yet.
In a multi-vendor TSM hardware environment, problem resolution gets hairy when Vendor A starts pointing the finger at Vendor B, and so on.
John Merryman
Storage ConsultantGlassHouse Technologies
SearchStorage.com: Most of the experts and users that we speak with believe Tivoli Storage Manager has the most -- and the best -- features on the market. Is this true? If so, why don't we hear more about Tivoli on a regular basis?
TSM is an extremely feature-rich product at the server and client level, with an abundance of tunable parameters. This makes it extremely powerful in production environments. The reason you don't hear much from IBM /Tivoli is their legacy of conservative and in some cases featherweight product marketing. Often key product features are under-marketed or not even promoted, so many customers only discover the benefits in production. SearchStorage.com: Are there any obvious storage management tools or features missing from Tivoli's product line? If so, what is Tivoli doing to plug those holes?
Tivoli Storage Manager has traditionally lacked reporting tools for production and batch activities. This is a void that in the past was filled by [scripting-savvy and] SQL-savvy customers, and [by] a few third-party products. Tivoli recently released a supported operational reporting tool, which is free and included as part of the TSM product. This module is a great step forward for TSM reporting and provides a lot of power to build custom or canned reports for TSM. In the future, IBM plans to leverage Tivoli SRM against TSM for TSM/Tape-based reporting, which would be a huge help for TSM demand forecasting. But generally, the operational reporting tool is the first major step forward.

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