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Aptare widens SRM net to include VMware, NetApp replication

With StorageConsole 7.0, Aptare adds storage resource management for replication and virtual servers to its capacity management and backup reporting capabilities.

Aptare Inc. upgraded and expanded its StorageConsole storage resource management (SRM) suite this week, adding products to manage resources in VMware virtual server and NetApp replication environments.

StorageConsole 7.0 also includes Aptare's previous products, Backup Manager and Capacity Manager. Those products, along with the new Virtualization Manager and Replication Manager, can be managed through one console.

Virtualization Manager and Replication Manager each support only one vendor's software out of the gate, but Aptare CEO and president Rick Clark said they'll be expanded to work with more products.

Virtualization Manager lets customers determine the amount of storage capacity required for deploying virtual servers, as well as the amount of storage capacity available for that deployment. Like Aptare's Capacity Manager, the software interrogates the storage array through a Unix utility called "DF minus K" to assess the available space left on file systems. It then queries applications to find out how much space the application is actually using, compares the data and produces a capacity utilization number based on actual usage rather than allocation.

Clark said Virtualization Manager queries VMware's vCenter Server directly. Aptare has access to VMware's software development kit (SDK), but is still in the formal certification process with the server virtualization vendor. Clark said support is planned for Microsoft Corp.'s Hyper-V and Citrix Systems Inc.'s XenServer. Aptare's Virtualization Manager has a list price of $1,495 per physical virtual machine (VM) server.

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Other SRM software products, such as NetApp's SANscreen (from its acquisition of Onaro Inc.) and Symantec Corp.'s Veritas Command Central Storage, have supported VMware for months. Analysts said that support would be crucial back when Aptare first released Capacity Manager in August 2007.

"In terms of timeframe, they're behind some of the other SRM players," said Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). "But server virtualization for mission-critical, production applications is just hitting its stride."

Replication Manager's first release will support NetApp SnapMirror, SnapVault and FlexClone data replication software, and Aptare plans to expand coverage to more vendors. Hitachi Data Systems, which rebrands StorageConsole as part of its Hitachi Storage Command Suite, is high on the list.

"They're waiting until we have [support] for both TrueCopy and ShadowImage," Clark said of Hitachi Data Systems. NetApp was the first choice because it's "the market leader in pure number of licenses deployed," he added.

"NetApp is necessary, but not sufficient," said James Baker, research manager, storage software at IDC, Framingham, Mass. "They need to step up coverage of other platforms.

Replication Manager's list price is $9,995 per array.

Aptare is also updating its Backup Manager and Capacity Manager products. Backup Manager will now report on VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) in Symantec Veritas NetBackup environments. Backup Manager can now report according to a customizable backup window rather than by calendar date. Capacity Manager added proactive reporting and support for Hitachi Data Systems' Universal Storage Platform (USP) arrays, including thin provisioning; IBM Corp.'s DS and ESS disk arrays; and LSI Corp.'s midrange storage line, which also includes LSI's OEM partners IBM, Silicon Graphics Inc. (soon to be acquired by Rackable Systems Inc.), Sun Microsystems Inc. and Teradata Corp.

Aptare customer Tim Malfara, storage architect for King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based online marketing services company GSI Commerce Solutions, says he's most interested in the new proactive reporting for Capacity Manager. Malfara said he already uses proactive reporting in Backup Manager.

"Part of the power of the product is that you can put triggers in and set thresholds, so if the volume of your backups changes more than 30% in a day, for example, you'll get an email saying that," he said. "Now they'll have it for the capacity management side."

The company first engaged with Aptare in the second quarter last year. Malfara said GSI became an Aptare customer about a year ago for its reporting tools.

"One of the challenges in our environment is that we run multiple production data centers," he said. "There really wasn't a native reporting tool that would allow roll-up of multiple implementations into a common view."

Global recession an SRM boon?

The consensus among analysts in this market is that while the need for better capacity management is real, organizations have generally not been willing to pay for it. However, Clark said Aptare has more than 300 customers, and that sales the last three quarters have been the strongest in the company's history.

"I challenged them [Aptare] about that," said IDC's Baker. "How is a 'nice to have' tool getting discretionary dollars during the downturn? They have 300 customers. But they've been in business 15 years."

Perhaps organizations see capacity management as a way to avoid buying additional storage, especially tier 1 disk. To do that requires a good sense of what you already have, according to ESG's Laliberte.

"Aptare's also not a legacy product, meaning it's simpler to deploy, and that's a key point," he said. "They also look at the true utilization of the storage system, not just how much is allocated."

Aptare overcomes another barrier in the SRM market by offering its software to service providers who can manage the reporting system and provide their customers with information about their environment. Those partnerships, as well as the one with Hitachi Data Systems, are also helping the company stay afloat in the market, Laliberte said.

For more on this story, download a podcast of our interview with Aptare CEO and president Rick Clark about how the company has grown in recent months.


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