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Emerging vendors take a SaaS approach to storage reporting

Two startups are taking a software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach to reporting on storage assets.

Storage Fusion Ltd, a UK company spun off by a private investment firm last year, claims to be reporting on storage environments of up to 60 PB, and signed a licensing agreement with GlassHouse Technologies last fall. According to managing director Graham Wood, the 15-person company is currently working with about 50 active customers, all with more than 50 TB, not counting “one-off” analytics done with some partners. The company was not able to provide an end user for an interview.

Storage Fusion’s product, Storage Resource Analysis (SRA), consists of a series of scripts which customers download and execute to collect data on EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, or NetApp arrays in their environment. The data generated by the scripts are then sent back to Storage Fusion’s data center, where Storage Fusion performs the analysis and provides results to the customer via the Web. According to Wood, if users get their data uploaded before 3 p.m., the analysis will be available the same day.

The company’s Web portal provides analysis according to gegraphical parameters, or the total resources, allocation and utilization at each data center location; a consumer view, which shows the hosts connected to the storage; a provider view, which normalizes the view of resources across heterogeneous storage providers into one report on the total storage environment; an environmental view, which provides energy consumption statistics according to published power and cooling specs from vendors; and an optional add-on business view, which translates storage capacity data into business-relevant statistics like dollars and cents. The reporting tool also looks for “exceptions” and provides error warnings and information on “orphan” reclaimable storage. The tool can decompose virtualization layers and supports thin provisioned arrays under its tiering tab.

Some customers, particularly large ones, might be wary of a third party peeking into their environment or sending data about their environment out of their data center. But Storage Fusion sales and operations director Peter White said “from a security perspective, our scripts are completely open — we hid nothing, and prior to running them, the user can look at them and see they’re just service log commands, the kind of command line utilities they execute all day.” The Web portal is also accessed via an SSL connection.

On the other side of the pond, and the other side of the customer-size spectrum, is Waltham, Mass.-based Aprigo, whose Ninja product has gotten several hundred free-version downloads since August. This first free version of the product collects file metadata regardless of hardware vendor on common file attributes such as name, type, size, and date modified. Aprigo compliles those attributes in a single view, and presnets them along with a cost calculator to show the dollar value of storing information on a yearly basis.

“It can be used for archiving or tiered storage business justification,” Aprigo CEO Gill Zimmerman said. Customers can also store up to 500 GB or 5 previous historical scans for trending reports. Aprigo is also working to put together a “community intelligence” report where users can compare themselves anonymously against other Aprigo customers.

Aprigo has a midmarket focus and doens’t use the term SRM because it’s reporting on file data rather than physical devices, according to Zimmerman. It’s working on a collector for other SaaS-based file systems like Google Docs. The company plans a Nov. 15 release that will also report on access control lists for file systems.

While some analysts have said the SRM space, which has seen its share of ups and downs, won’t mature until services and help for customers interpreting analytics results are more widely available, the SaaS or services-delivery model of SRM tools is not a new idea — Aptare has sold its backup and storage reporting tools to service providers for years; similarly, IBM’s Storage Enterprise Research Planner (SERP) storage resource management tools are deployed through IBM Global Services. CommVault began offering a SaaS-based backup reporting service in 2008; Dell has pledged a SaaS approach to services; and Continuity Software also offers a SaaS option for its disaster recovery change management tool.

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