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Researching storage management

Where should you start when researching storage management software? The hardware vendors themselves or do you think outside ISV solutions are worth a look?

I would advise the buyer to use caution when seeking storage management software advice from hardware vendors. Although this is starting to change, hardware vendors have typically failed to see the benefit of managing storage with anything but a hardware solution. Microsoft's embedding of SRM into its server appliance kit might change this, since the kit will be supplied to Compaq, Dell, HP, NEC, IBM and Maxtor to go to market quickly with SRM-enabled NAS boxes running a Windows interface.

Check with ISVs, but also use caution since there are a lot of new entrants in this space with little market penetration due to inferior technology.

Here's a checklist you should take to every storage management ISV before making a decision:

1) Lab Reviews -- Does the product even work? Push for independent, third party lab reviews by trusted sources such as E-Week labs, Windows 2000 Magazine and others. If they don't have any positive lab reviews, they must be hiding something.
2) Customer references -- Does anyone even use the product? Look carefully, some ISVs disguise their storage management references with users of other products the company makes. Look for many recent case studies.
3) Awards -- Save yourself from having to reinvent the wheel. Which products have won industry awards in side-by-side comparisons. Steer clear of any that haven't.
4) Track record -- Good products make good news. Lousy products get little coverage. The trade rags want to tell their readers about proven, successful technologies, not lemons. Scan the ISVs Website for lots of good news stories. Sites that lack these are probably hiding something, or the press doesn't see the products as mature enough to deserve valuable ink.
5) Patents -- Look for innovative products that have patented technologies. Those products that don't have patented technology could be either offering a cheap substitute for the real thing, or could be in the middle of a lawsuit right now. In which case buying from them would be extremely risky (particularly if they have to turn over their code and ask their customers to de-install the illegal product).
6) Global presence -- If you're not global now, you probably will be some time in the future in this global economy. Look for an ISV with local offices around the world.
7) Support -- Put the ISV's support to the test. Were they responsive? How was the Web support? Don't overlook this important factor in your buying decision.
8) Real-time -- What good is a storage management software solution that only monitors your storage part of the time? You need something that has real-time finger on the pulse of your storage, without incurring unnecessary delays. It's only real-time if you're monitoring it before the data touches the storage device.
9) Partners -- Look to see who the ISV has partnered with. If nobody will partner with them there must be a reason.
10) Control -- Many storage management products can only provide REactive storage management. At the end of the day, you need something that is PROactive, allowing you to control the problem before it becomes a problem.

Ask the ISVs if they can do anything to prevent the storage problem. After all, it really isn't management if you can only be in reactive mode all the time. Management means preventing the problem, not just reacting to it.

I hope you find this list helpful in making your decision. As for sources, look around on searchStorage, check the news section, go on the site of your favorite IT publication and do a search. The answer to your question may be a lot closer than you think.

Steven Toole

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