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SRM vendor analysis

Storage analyst Jerome M. Wendt recently gave a webcast on SRM. Here are his thoughts on the latest SRM products.

SRM offers the promise of identifying and preventing capacity or performance problems and helping to plan for future storage growth. Storage analyst Jerome M. Wendt recently gave a webcast on SRM. Here are his thoughts on the latest SRM products, the future of SRM implementation and the strengths and weaknesses of various manufacturers' offerings.

What do you think of Hitachi Data Systems' (HDS) Hi Command Storage Services Manager SRM product vs. Global Storage Manager (GSM) from Storability?
Jerome Wendt: I have had some hands-on experience with Storability's GSM and a fair degree of exposure to the HDS Hi Command Storage Services Manager product. That said, with SRM, it always comes down to what you want to do with it.

Storability would probably be better served by renaming their product to GSR (Global Storage Reporter) rather than GSM. Their enterprise reporting feature is probably the best one on the market today. StorageTek's acquisition of Storability also bodes well if you have either a large tape or Virtual Tape Library (VTL) infrastructure, since GSM already integrates and reports on StorageTek's tape libraries and it is probably only a matter of time before it provides similar information on VTL appliances. However, if you are hoping to centrally manage a heterogeneous server, storage array, tape or switch environment with this or any other SRM product, especially at the enterprise level, you should stick to the software that each individual hardware vendor provides.

HDS's Hi Command Storage Services Manager is essentially just a re-branded version of AppIQ's StorageAuthority Suite with whatever new hooks that HDS has added to it. AppIQ popularized the notion of CIM/SMI-S and as a result their product was often too closely associated with that concept. They have since expanded beyond that ideal to the more realistic requirement of having to deploy agents on servers to provide the more detailed information administrators need.

As a rule, I recommend only choosing an SRM tool just for reporting, regardless of which tool you select. Use the reports the tool produces to build business cases and justifications for new storage technologies such as ATA disk, VTL's, or network virtualization that can be used to reduce your overall storage management costs.

Between these two products, I lean towards HDS if I have the freedom to manage my shop (servers, file systems, database, arrays, etc.) and Storability if you are in enterprise and want to gain visibility into your global environment without interfering with the business processes occurring in other departments or business units.

When will EMC FabricX ship? Will it support the SMB and midrange product range?
Jerome Wendt: The latest I have heard is that FabricX will ship towards the end of the second quarter of 2005 with some basic functionality. EMC's plan is to support some arrays in the SMB and midrange product range but which ones, how soon and how many they will support at the outset have not formally been announced.

How important is automation going to be in the future, business processes and administrator tasks (provisioning, server installs, etc.)
Jerome Wendt: This depends on how far in the future you are talking about, but for the sake of discussion, I'll look out over the next 1, 5 and 10 years.

Over the next 12 months, it won't happen in open systems shops except in a very few highly controlled open systems shops. The one notable exception is for those shops that have mainframes in place. Mainframes have more mature environments in place that facilitate this sort of automation. However, it comes at a substantial upfront cost over open systems.

Automation will start to creep in, beginning in year 2 only in the most progressive shops, but I see years two through five shops will be dedicated to implementing network based virtualization. Users will spend their time adapting their enterprise to this new technology, understanding it and implementing it.

By time years six through 10 roll around, organized shops should have technologies like virtualization and SRM in place. Provisioning storage should then be viewed as "easy"', storage as a "utility"' and the focus will be on making ILM a reality. However, WWN virtualization (similar to IP addresses) will need to work its way up into server host bus adapters (HBA), SRM tools will need to go beyond reporting to allowing administrators to centrally execute commands on any server, and object oriented data management will need to evolve much further.

How does Command Central from Veritas compare with the other SRM offerings? You suggested that Veritas is not a hardware independent SRM provider. To which vendors are they limited? Your discussion of vendors in the market gave pretty short shrift to Veritas and their Command Central product. Since they are a hardware-independent software provider, I would have thought you'd class them together with AppIQ, Softek, etc. Do you feel they are not one of the big players? Do you dislike the product, or the packaging of it?
Jerome Wendt: I received a number of questions on Veritas' Command Central product, so I am answering them in one longer response.

First, from my perspective, Veritas' Command Central tries to do what EMC's Control Center tries to do -- control everything. This philosophy only makes sense for the highest available, most visible servers so look to use products like these in these situations. There are different tiers of storage, so there are also different tiers of storage management software. For your second tier servers and applications and below, use products which are simple to install and configure such as Softek's Storage Manager. They give you 80% of the information you need and when they don't give you what you need, spend the extra money and get the extra detail these other products offer.

Second, if I said or implied that Veritas is not hardware independent in the webcast, I misspoke. What I meant to say was that Veritas is too dependent upon other software it offers, specifically its Volume Manager software. Not every server will require or can justify the cost of implementing Veritas' Volume Manager on every server and, unless the architecture of the product has recently changed, to get the full functionality out of Command Central, users need to deploy Volume Manager on each server.

Finally, I do not consider Veritas a major player in the SRM space. I actually consider the hardware vendors to be making more and better progress in this area than software vendors since users are starting out using the hardware vendor's native device management and they are wisely building upon that to expand into other areas. I think Veritas, like most other providers of SRM software, try to solve all SRM problems in one fell swoop and end up creating more problems than they solve. As a result, they provide little value to the end user. Complicating the problem with SRM solutions is the fact that hardware prices continue to fall and managing your assets down to the last byte is a waste of time. I find it easier and cheaper to throw more capacity at the problem every couple of years, since you usually get twice as more storage for the same price. Vendors like Veritas, try to convince me that I should pay a whole bunch of money for their software and then work myself to death to implement it in order to recover 100 GB of storage from 3 or 4 servers. I'd rather just pay another $1,000 (or whatever) for that 100 extra gigabyte.

Jerome, What is your opinion between EMC's SRM product and App/IQ? I find EMC much more difficult to use while APP/IQ is easier to use.
Jerome Wendt: EMC offers a couple of SRM products (Navisphere and ControlCenter) that each have a number of optional modules while AppIQ offers their StorageAuthority Suite with some comparable optional modules. I personally use EMC's ControlCenter on a semi-frequent basis.

From a usability perspective, ControlCenter takes a while to learn and is at home when you have complete control of your environment -- servers, storage, switches (hence ControlCenter) and are relatively committed to being an EMC shop. While the learning curve is pretty steep on their product, the more I use the product, the more I like it, especially for the most complex storage networking problems I face. However, I find it overkill for 80-90 % of the applications I manage. However, it can be life saver for the really complex ones I run into.

AppIQ's StorageAuthority Suite I find to be the best bet for a heterogeneous environment of servers, switches and storage. I personally believe that the whole idea of trying to use one tool to manage every storage device in your environment ludicrous -- the product simply becomes too complex (ex. ControlCenter), cumbersome to administer and update and cost prohibitive. However, with network based virtualization starting to appear (IBM's SAN Volume Controller, EMC's FabricX/Storage Router, HDS's Tagmastore), the need to manage every storage device will diminish and then a base product with agents that give you some optional advanced features (database integration, e-mail integration) makes sense to implement for that subset of servers that need at it.

Are there any SRM products that you would recommend for a mainframe environment?
Jerome Wendt: Many features' that SRM products offer are part of the native offering on the mainframe. With that in mind, look for products that offer both open systems and mainframe components so you can potentially achieve the elusive "single pane of glass"' into your computing environment. Vendors that offer these types of options include EMC, Teracloud and Softek with Teracloud's SpaceFinder product probably offering the best bang for the buck.

How does CA's SRM tool compare?
Jerome Wendt: I'm not intimately acquainted with CA's SRM software, nor do I know any users who are currently using or evaluating it. However, from what I hear on the street and colleagues of mine in the industry, it's an OK to above average product if you looking for a tool that meets the basic requirements for SRM.

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