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Hands-On Review: Tek-Tools Profiler Rx 3.5.2

Tek-Tools' Profiler Rx helps simplify storage management by giving you a quick picture of complex SANs. But it's not SMI-S compliant.

A simple view of complex SANs

Product snapshot
Tek-Tools Profiler Rx 3.5.2
Storage management
Key Features:
Supports Microsoft Exchange, EMC Symmetrix and SNIA HBA API
Easy installation, excellent navigation
Not SMI-S compliant, inconsistent report formatting
Starts at $7,500; optional modules are variably priced.

Discovering, monitoring and configuring devices on a storage area network (SAN) can be an arduous task, especially when the hardware and software come from a mix of vendors. Typically, storage administrators must become adept at using proprietary tools from various vendors. Dallas-based Tek-Tools Inc. hopes to ease this burden with its Profiler Rx storage management program. While it doesn't cover all of the bases, it touches enough of them to warrant consideration.

Profiler Rx 3.5.2 is an incremental upgrade that includes a Microsoft Exchange module. The Profiler Rx Server polls and receives agent status and event information from managed devices in a SAN. It uses database and Web servers to store and access its repository of information, which is used for reporting and notifying administrators of events that occur on the managed devices. Our tests focused on the e-mail, backup and SAN modules of Profiler Rx.

While Profiler Rx supports many devices and applications and other industry standards, it isn't yet Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) compliant. Tek-Tools indicated that an SMI-S compliant version is in the works and should be available in approximately nine months.

Profiler Rx consists of a Profiler Server, a MySQL data store and various Profiler agents that gather client data. A browser-based GUI displays the data, depending on the type of add-on modules and security groups that are configured. Supported browsers include Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher and Netscape 6.0 or higher.

The Profiler Server runs on Solaris 8 and 9, and Windows 2000, XP and 2003. System requirements include 512MB of memory and 1GB of disk space to accommodate the data store. Tek-Tools doesn't specify minimum CPU resources, but as the number of managed devices and Profiler agents increase, so should the number and speed of CPUs. The Profiler Server should be managed like a database server, with the Profiler agents serving as transactional processes. For our tests, we installed Profiler Rx on a Sun Microsystems E450 running Solaris 8 with 1GB of memory, two 400MHz CPUs and a 9GB disk.

To install the server binaries, SP-Server-352.tar must be copied from the installation CD to a temporary directory for extraction. One of the extracted files is, a script that installs Profiler Rx's binary and configuration files into /opt/TTIsp/storageprofiler by default; Tek-Tools recommends using this default directory. You will also be prompted to supply the MySQL database default password.

After installation and rebooting, Profiler Rx is started via links in the run command startup directories. The proper order for starting the application is to start the database first using /etc/rc3.d/S98storageprofiler-mysql start, and then the Profiler Server by issuing /etc/rc3.d/S99storageprofiler start.

Easy navigation

Easy navigation: The Administrator's Console appears when you first log in to Tek-Tools' Profiler Rx. The main console screen shows a summary of managed storage, with details available by drilling down on specific items.

Next, you'll need to obtain a Profiler Rx Server license by sending an e-mail to Tek-Tools indicating the IP and MAC address of the NIC card over which you plan to monitor devices, and the types of devices (e.g., backup applications, switches and hosts) you'll manage.

To install the Profiler agent, copy and extract SP-Agent-352.tar into a directory on a monitored host. Executing the script places the binaries and configuration files in /opt/TTIagent. The agent installation script requests the IP address of the Profiler Rx Server, and the port the Profiler Rx agent will use to communicate with the server. The default port 4319 should be used, assuming it's not being used by another application.

Like the server installation, a link (/etc/rc2.d/S99rmagent start|stop) to the startup script is installed in the local client's run command directory. Supported operating systems include Windows, Solaris, SCO, HP-UX, NetWare, Linux, AIX and Tru64.

Overall, installation was quick and simple. It took approximately 15 minutes to install and configure the Profiler Rx Server and agent. The login screen is accessed with a browser by typing in the URL http://profiler-server-name:9000, where profiler-server-name is the fully qualified domain name of the Profiler server returned by your naming service.

Usability and Interface
After login, the main administrative console appears, showing enterprise storage by the number of hosts being managed, how they're attached to storage (i.e., DAS, NAS or SAN) and their utilization percentages. Backup client and file system trends can also be quickly ascertained from the main window (see "Easy navigation").

Because Profiler Rx uses hyperlinks rather than menu selections, it's easy to drill down to specific information. For example, to view the profile of a managed host, you click on the number in the Hosts column that represents the number of hosts attached to their storage by a certain method (e.g., DAS). A pop-up box appears, itemizing the number of hosts by their respective operating systems.

An administrator can click on the operating system type to display a list of host names. Click on the host name, and Profiler Rx will display the host's performance metrics, storage utilization, file systems, assets and event correlation. That's quite a bit of information for just three mouse clicks.

More statistics can be gleaned by drilling down into the host monitor. Clicking on Host Usage shows the top five consumers of storage, the top five file types in use and related 30-day trend data by volume. Using this data, storage administrators can develop policies to control volume growth by file type or user. Profiler Rx uses agents to collect its data, but our tests showed that the agents did not hinder performance.

Less impressive is Profiler Rx's ability to consistently format the display. While navigating the application and running reports, data displays were not always well organized. The display was often jumbled, with overlapping data cells. However, refreshing the browser once or twice--sometimes three times--cleared things up.

Exchange data details

Exchange data details: The optional Profiler RX Exchange agent collects detailed information about message file storage. The main Exchange console shown here displays overall storage use, along with the top five users and message stores.

Tek-Tools Profiler Rx is largely dependent on the simple the network management protocol (SNMP) for polling, trapping and correlating events on managed devices. Although SNMP is widely supported in the industry, Profiler Rx isn't currently SMI-S compliant because it uses its own MySQL database schema as a repository.

Here's a detailed look at Profiler Rx's features:

Backup reports. The backup agent is implemented by turning on a subagent once the operating system agent is installed and registered with the Profiler Rx Server. This allows you to monitor one or more supported backup servers and clients using user-defined groups. Grouping allows you to streamline your monitoring efforts by assembling, for example, all EMC/Legato NetWorker and SyncSort Backup Express servers into their own containers.

This setup allows different administration teams to monitor separate groups and compare success ratios to see what backup application is providing the best results. The backup summary includes information such as total gigabytes backed up, megabytes per minute and the success ratio of the clients. These statistics can be used as input for predefined reports called "Quick reports." Other canned reports such as "Successful clients by group" and "Failed clients by server" can also be used to determine trends over time.

Supported backup applications include CA ARCserve, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, Legato NetWorker, StorageTek ACSLS, SyncSort Backup Express and Veritas NetBackup and Backup Exec.

Exchange agent. E-mail storage management has long been a pain point for storage managers. The sheer number of e-mail files often causes backup window problems, and the quantity and types of e-mail attachments pose potential problems as well. A storage manager needs a tool that can non-disruptively interrogate an e-mail server to discover storage utilization and performance metrics down to the user or mailbox level.

The Profiler Rx Exchange agent captures storage utilization information segregated by message store and storage group (see "Exchange data details"). Within each of these management areas, trending data about the message store and the names of the top five storage consumers are shown. In addition, the name, number, type and total size of all attachments are displayed in this top-level report and you can correlate system load averages (CPU, memory, disk MB/sec) with the number of mail users logged on at any particular time.

Extensive SANstatistics

Extensive SAN statistics: Profiler Rx's SAN agent can collect performance statistics from arrays, switches, HBAs and tape libraries. This screen shows a performance report for a Brocade switch; to display similar information for other network devices, just click another entry from a device list.

SAN agent. The SAN agent can be implemented by configuring the SNMP agent on the managed device, or as a subagent that runs on a host connected to devices in the SAN (EMC implementation). The host subagent then updates the data store with status information polled or trapped from the monitored device. SAN devices may include disk arrays, tape libraries, switches and host bus adapters (HBAs).

The Profiler Rx SAN agent also lets you pool SAN ports into groups. This is a good way of associating applications to storage ports. For example, a number of switch ports representing HBAs configured in a four-node cluster could be grouped together and monitored for performance bottlenecks, as can the cluster's individual disks.

Depending on the hardware vendor's implementation of SNMP, different statistics will be uploaded to the data store. The data may include an array's LUN assignments or a switch port's status and statistical information. For example, Brocade switches report port status, WWN, Domain IDs and per-port performance numbers (see "Extensive SANstatistics").

The base license fee for Profiler Rx is $7,500; it includes one Profiler Rx Server, two operating system host add-on modules and 10 right-to-use licenses. Other add-on modules are variably priced; the Exchange module starts at $3,000.

Profiler Rx is a good Web-based, SNMP-managed application with a generous feature set. Its ability to interrogate an Exchange server for per-mailbox usage information, and to group storage resources into manageable, application-specific containers helps administrators proactively provision storage resources.

Profiler Rx's main disadvantage is that it's not SMI-S compliant. However, compliance may not be an immediate concern, especially if you're managing a large, heterogeneous enterprise and you need discovery and monitoring capabilities right now. In that case, you should consider Tek-Tools Profiler Rx.

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