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Countrywide manages 5,000-port SAN with Onaro

Tired of waiting for EMC to deliver root-cause analysis software for its SAN, Countrywide Financial purchased Onaro's SANscreen to manage its 5,000-port Brocade fabric.

EMC Corp. announced this week that its Smarts network fault-correlation software now supports Fibre Channel (FC) networks. Unfortunately, this was a couple of months too late for Countrywide Financial Corp.

With almost 2 petabytes of capacity, the vast majority of it on EMC devices, "we were looking to them to provide this functionality," said Michael Crocker, vice president of enterprise storage area management at the real estate mortgage lender. Unfortunately, "they just aren't there yet," he said. EMC kept Countrywide apprised of its work on porting Smarts, a network fault-correlation package that it bought last year, but Crocker said he expects it will take some time for it to work well with FC.

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Last month, EMC announced that Smarts could discover its NAS devices, and during EMC World in Boston this week the company unveiled Smarts Storage Insight for Availability to discover switches, host bus adapters, and EMC Symmetrix and Clariion devices on a FC SAN.

The announcement came too late for Countrywide, which brought in Onaro Inc. to report on and monitor the availability of its paths from the host, through the fabric and down to the storage. "It does that quite well," Crocker said.

Upon implementation, Onaro's SANscreen software discovered the Countrywide environment and found that "overall, we were in excellent shape," noted Crocker. "There were some issues that we had to attend to, but we knew beforehand that we were going to find some stuff."

SANscreen now monitors the environment 24/7, alerting administrators to failures or policy violations with Simple Network Management Protocol or through a client on storage administrators' desktops. Countrywide also uses Onaro's what-if capabilities to ascertain whether or not a server has an alternate path to storage before doing a data migration or a fabric update. "You can never do too much testing," Crocker said.

Last month, Onaro announced SANscreen 3.0 and two additional modules, one to monitor performance (rather than availability) and another to manage replication. Crocker is unsure whether or not Countrywide needs either module. "It depends on the kind of information that they discover," he said.

When it comes to application performance, "the SAN is always guilty until proven innocent," Crocker said. In a perfect world, the information Onaro collects should help storage staff prove to the rest of the IT department, that "Look, it's not the SAN's fault."

Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, Boulder, Colo., believes Onaro is ahead of its competition. "There are lots of SAN management products out there that can interrogate the environment," he said. "Analyzing the results is another [thing], and that's where they've distinguished themselves."

Currently, EMC's Storage Insight for Availability only works with Symmetrix and Clariion hardware, and EMC's storage management software. The company said it will eventually support other hardware and third-party management software but gave no timeline.

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