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SolarWinds aims to integrate Tek-Tools storage resource management with network, server management

An expected convergence of networking and storage management drives SolarWinds to acquire storage resource management (SRM) and monitoring software vendor Tek-Tools; one Tek-Tools customer says common management tools is a good idea.

Network management software vendor SolarWinds entered the storage resource management (SRM) market this week in anticipation of IT convergence gaining steam.

SolarWinds executives say their $42 million acquisition of SRM vendor Tek-Tools was spurred by their belief that IT organizations want to bring storage into their common IT management framework. SolarWinds will sell Tek-Tools' Profiler SRM application as a standalone product and eventually integrate it into its Orion IT management suite.

"We've been selling application management into network and systems management teams," said Kenny Van Zant, senior vice president and chief product strategist at SolarWinds. "Storage people are viewed as an island to themselves with their own teams and their own tools. We think that's changing. We think our model will work in other IT sectors, and we felt storage was the right adjacent market for us to make an acquisition in and prove that point."

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SolarWinds isn't alone in its desire to bring IT management under a common umbrella. Although few vendors have fully implemented such a management framework, most of the large IT vendors such as Cisco Systems inc., EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. and IBM have taken steps in that direction.

"The trend here is around end-to-end management across different IT resources – server, storage, networks, hardware, software, services – in support of various infrastructure resource management tasks," said Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group in Stillwater, Minn.

Schulz said he's surprised nobody picked up Tek-Tools sooner for two key pieces of the infrastructure stack: storage and virtualization management.

"SolarWinds needs to beef up with storage, server and virtualization capabilities to complement its network-centric model to remain relevant with the likes of Cisco moving into servers and storage, and Oracle expanding its domain of focus, not to mention the giants HP and IBM," he said. "So it is about convergence of technologies, convergence of technology domains and IRM [infrastructure resource management] focus, and convergence of the partner ecosystem."

Van Zant said SolarWinds' customers have already been looking for ways to manage storage, particularly Ethernet-based arrays.

"How to put a server on the SAN or move it off to direct attached [storage] is a new issue for some of our users," he said. "They say, 'Don't make me have to have another piece of software to handle storage.'"

One Tek-Tools customer, RiskMetrics Group's storage architect Ed Delgado, said he was not familiar with SolarWinds before reading about the deal Wednesday, but is open to an integrated management application. Delgado said he currently uses four different applications, including Tek-Tools Profiler, to manage and monitor storage and network traffic.

"We use Profiler for storage and VMware," he said. "I can see why [SolarWinds] did this. Looking at their website, they don't seem to have any integration for VMware and storage, so this fills two big gaps for them. Profiler makes it easy to see things, and it looks like software is going in that direction."

Delgado said he would like to see SolarWinds add Oracle RAC support to Profiler, but he's most interested in its licensing model. He said Tek-Tools was already thinking of changing its license model from the number of arrays to the number of disks used inside the array.

"We have eight [EMC] Clariions," Delgado said. "Some have a single tray, while another has 16 trays, so I don't know if we would end up paying more or less after the licensing change."

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