SAN management tools can be useful, provided you're aware of their limitations and the needs of your specific environment.
According to Keith Lynch, principal consultant at Intellinet, in general, vendor-specific SAN management tools provide the most consistent granular control of their [own] specific hardware. However, he adds, "you may look to third-party vendors to provide increased reporting, altering or ease of use not present in the native tools."
Lynch reckons SAN management tools can help "proactively increase data availability, improve network response time, increase security and move intelligence into the network." He says the improvements in productivity and security alone are worth the money. However, if the SAN environment includes products from multiple vendors, it may difficult to find the right tools for the job. Also, users want to be able to centrally configure and maintain the configuration data, especially if they are managing devices from multiple vendors.
Lynch says end users looking for SAN management tools should consider core functionality, including discovery and mapping of storage devices, switches and servers, and monitoring and alerting for discovered devices, as well as logical partitioning or zoning of the SAN.
"In addition to looking for management of typical SAN components such as host bus adapters (HBAs), storage devices, cables, and switches, look for a product that can manage multiple server platforms and OSs, includes zoning tools and can integrate with other management tools," he says. It's worth the effort to try to find a product that will discover and display the devices in your SAN in easy-to-comprehend maps.
"Standards like SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification), which would allow for the management of heterogeneous arrays from an independent platform, are a great idea," he says. However, Lynch questions how committed vendors will be to SMI-S, since the reality is that they want their platform to be the sole storage for the client. He points to heterogeneous products like Computer Associates BrightStor SAN Manager as the exception.
Michael Karp, an analyst for Enterprise Management Associates, gives kudos to most of the SAN management vendors. "We all like to criticize them, but really the SAN management products do a good job," he says. Karp says that SAN management is an extension of the reasons most organization implement a SAN in the first place, namely to increase performance and improve manageability.
"SAN management really does allow you to tune the various parameters of a SAN to further improve performance and enhance manageability," he says.
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About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, Mass.