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InterSAN launches SAM software

A new storage area management tool helps to masks the complexities of networking infrastructures: Upshot: It eliminates the need to manually manage individual storage devices.

InterSAN Inc., will launch on Monday the first version of its application-based storage area management (SAM) software. Dubbed Pathline, the Scotts Valley, Calif.-based company's software is designed to give users the ability to manage the relationship between applications and data storage.

Based on a technology called Virtual Private DataPath (VPD), Pathline masks the complexities of a storage networking infrastructure, an approach that eliminates the need to manually manage individual storage devices.

Understanding the relationship between SAM, SRM and virtualization
So how can you distinguish Storage Area Management (SAM) software from Storage Resource Management (SRM) and virtualization? SearchStorage asked Nancy Marrone, senior analyst for Milford, Mass.-based analyst firm the Enterprise Storage Group to define each of the three technologies. Here's what she had to say:

Storage Area Management (SAM) solutions primarily do topology discovery and mapping of the SAN, (the elements and the interconnections). A SAM product will monitor the health of those elements, and the connections, some can monitor the performance of the network itself. Currently, the only real actions taken by standard SAM solutions are alerting and alarming based on predefined thresholds being exceeded, or elements (ports, arrays) going down or becoming unavailable.

Storage Resource Management (SRM) applications provide a view of the available storage resources from a capacity perspective. SRM applications do discovery, but at a different level-they will discover the element, but then determine the amount of capacity used, amount of free space, type of files being stored etc. This gives the user a comprehensive view of the capacity and usage patterns. SRM applications can alert when disks are full or reaching capacity, or if a user tries to save certain types of files, like MP3s. They can also provide long-term usage reports.

Virtualization applications are used to create logical storage pools. These applications provide a layer of abstraction between the servers and the storage arrays- taking physical storage devices and turning them into logical pools, which can be shared amongst multiple, heterogeneous hosts. The purpose of virtualization is to be able to share storage resources. The pooling is transparent to the hosts. Many virtualization vendors provide services like mirroring and remote data copy, again transparent to the host.

All of these applications can work together for effective management of the storage network, they are very complementary.

"SANs are great, but managing them isn't easy," said InterSAN executive Karen Dutch. "Pathline efficiently manages SANs because it understands the relation of the infrastructure back to the application."

Pathline's application-oriented approach lets customers to provision, manage, and monitor storage networks based on applications rather than devices.

InterSAN contends that while SAN deployments have shown real benefits for the end user, comprehensive management solutions are still needed for businesses to realize the full potential of SANs. Customers can use Pathline to automate storage provisioning, provide and measure differentiated service levels and put end-to-end, policy-based SAN security in place.

Bill North, director of research for IDC's Storage Software unit, said SAM has historically been about device management, InterSAN can slice and dice the management view many different ways.

"You can go to a device and see what application will get hit if it goes down," said North. "You can shine your flashlight down either end of the fibre and see [which application] is going to get hit."

Among Pathline's features are automatic discovery and continuous health monitoring for storage networking components. The software manages the application-to-data storage path without placing any hardware or software in the data path. This approach, said InterSAN, avoids performance and availability penalties.

Nancy Marrone, senior analyst for Milford, Mass.-based analyst firm the Enterprise Storage Group, said InterSAN's offering goes beyond static discovery and monitoring tools by providing an application level view and automated provisioning based on preset policies.

She said that Pathline traces the Virtual Data Path, which shows the relationship between an application and the path it takes on the network to its assigned storage down to the LUN level.

"By monitoring that path, they can provide a level of proactive management not available from "traditional" SAM vendors," said Marrone. "The InterSAN product can determine if there will be performance issues with the application based on the availability of the storage or the elements in the path."

StorageWay Inc., a Fremont, Calif.-based SSP, which provides storage-on-demand and backup services is using Pathline to automate the repeatable processes involved in its customer deployments.

"We're using [Pathline] to secure data paths and automate the repeatable processes for bringing [paths] up and tearing them down," said Chris Eidler, vice president of engineering and CTO, StorageWay.

Eidler said Pathline lets StorageWay increase productivity levels while letting its personnel move on to other projects. "I can take an entire group and drop it down to [no people]," said Eidler.

Pathline automates common IT tasks including provisioning, configuration, management, and monitoring of networked storage components.

InterSAN is not publishing list prices for Pathline, but said the pricing is based on the amount of SAN-attached storage, the number of switch ports, and the diversity of storage networking hardware in the environment.

InterSAN is not the only vendor playing in the SAM space. Companies like BMC, EMC and Veritas are also pushing application-based storage management.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor


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