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EMC adds SAN maintenance to ECC

A new feature in EMC ControlCenter SRM suite called SAN Advisor tests and validates design changes made to a SAN.

Hoping to reduce SAN complexity in the enterprise, EMC Corp. announced SAN Advisor, a new feature in its EMC ControlCenter storage management software suite that will help companies plan, implement and validate changes to their SANs.

SAN Advisor addresses an ongoing problem for any company that owns a SAN: maintenance and growth management. EMC said that SAN Advisor can be used as standalone software, but predicts that most users who integrate SAN Advisor will be existing ControlCenter users. "These tend to be larger companies with the most complex SANs," said Jonathan Siegal, group product marketing manager at EMC.

SAN Advisor's main component is its validation engine, which downloads SAN data. An interface provides users with information on the impact changes to a SAN will have before the changes are actually made.

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Existing SANs are automatically validated against 130 rules and best practices designed by eLab, EMC's device compatibility database. For example, if you're adding a new server, and it doesn't work with a particular HBA, SAN Advisor sends a message saying that the devices are incompatible and will guide the user to a solution, such as upgrading firmware.

Randy Kerns, senior partner at the Evaluator Group, Greenwood Village, Colo., called SAN Advisor a step forward in SAN management because "you can compare what you have in your SAN against the most updated best practices based on eLab," Kerns said.

SAN Advisor takes a SAN through a five-step process when making configurations and changes. First, a point-in-time copy of the existing SAN is made and then validated and searched for errors. Next, the user can model changes they want to make in their SAN and SAN Advisor will give them their best options.

Then the user can build an "action plan" where the desired changes are compared with the existing SAN. The action plan tells users what devices and changes are needed to accomplish their goal.

Next, the actual changes are implemented in the SAN using ECC's SAN Manager. Finally, the accuracy of the SAN changes are compared to the "action plan" to validate that the changes were made.

EMC said that as "a whole ILM solution" SAN Advisor has no direct competition. But Kerns mentioned CA's BrightStor SAN Designer and Onaro Inc.'s SANScreen change management software as having comparable features to SAN Advisor.

Michael Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, said that many companies only have a superficial understanding of their SAN. "They know they have five arrays and how they are connected, but they don't understand how new additions to the SAN will interact with what they already have. SAN Advisor addresses this problem well."

Karp mentioned that although SAN Advisor will be helpful to large companies with complex SANs, EMC may be neglecting the many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that are implementing cheaper SANs and could benefit from SAN maintenance and change management software.

"SMBs are not used to SAN planning and can't afford ControlCenter and SAN Advisor, but still need this functionality. There's no reason SAN maintenance couldn't be dropped in as a service for SMBs," said Karp.

SAN Advisor will be available beginning in May 2005 directly through EMC and its channel partners. Pricing for SAN Advisor starts at $5,000 and it will be sold on a supported storage capacity basis. It will also be sold as a bundled component within the EMC ControlCenter Planning and Provisioning package.

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