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SRM software evaluation: 10 things you should consider

This tip presents 10 things you need to consider when choosing storage resource management software.

What you will learn from this tip: Ten questions you should ask yourself about your needs and your environment when choosing storage resource management software.

Storage resource management (SRM) software remains in a state of flux.

Some vendors like Creekpath Systems Inc. and TeraCloud Corp. are scaling back management functions and refocusing their products to provide enhanced levels of reporting and analytics. Others like CA and EMC Corp., are throwing in every feature but the kitchen sink, while still keeping the SRM label on their product.

To help you sort through the SRM products available today, here are 10 ways to evaluate SRM software products and a bit of insight into what some products deliver.

  1. How quickly can it produce reports? This is the first deliverable that everyone expects, so the product needs to produce reports from day one. Give priority to SRM tools that can produce reports on infrastructure storage devices and advise users that they will likely need to wait longer for host-level reports.
  2. Do you need to do centralized reporting across multiple sites? If so, be careful which product you choose. While a number of products offer it, I am only aware of Sun Microsystems Corp./StorageTek's Operations Manager Software being able to deliver on this functionality.
  3. Can you deploy server agents? If not, limit the scope of your evaluation to those products that can gather the necessary information without the deployment of agents. However, be aware that the depth of reports may not be as extensive as they are when agents are used, and that agentless approaches introduce certain security risks and management overhead.
  4. Are you a database- or file server-centric shop? If database-centric, identify the databases that you support and choose the products that provide deep levels of integration with both the databases and the storage arrays behind them, in order to provide a complete end-to-end picture. Hardware vendor-specific SRM tools like EMC's ControlCenter are generally best. If managing files is what you need, look for products such as Softek Storage Solution Corp.'s Storage Manager that reports on and manages files on different network file servers.
  5. What type of management, if any, do you want the SRM tool to perform? If storage device management is in the cards, stick with the SRM tools provided by hardware providers such as EMC, McData Corp., or HDS. If you want a central console to manage files on different server operating systems, hardware neutral vendor products like CA's BrightStor SRM are probably best.
  6. Do you want the tool to analyze and interpret your data? Administrators often spend so much time deploying and managing the tool, that no one has the time to analyze and interpret the data the SRM tool collects. CA's BrightStor SRM, Creekpath's Acuity Suite and TeraCloud's Storage Analytics help to prioritize which storage pain points should be addressed first from a dollar perspective.
  7. Does the product integrate with Active Directory or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol? SRM products cut across many levels of an organization, so it is likely you will need different people logging into the SRM tool since different individuals manage different components of the infrastructure.
  8. Is the SRM software part of a suite of products? With issues like data classification, information lifecycle management, email archiving and encryption rising in importance each day, the need for the SRM component to integrate with software that performs these functions may be imperative, especially for enterprises.
  9. Is the product to be used enterprise-wide or just for one department? If it is to be used enterprise-wide, stay with major vendors. While they do not necessarily work any better than products from lesser-known vendors, they are generally easier sells at the executive level. If you just need a department level tool, companies like Tek-Tools Inc. provide great functionality at a reasonable price.
  10. How often are updates of the product being released? If the last major product release was more than 12 months ago, it may be a tip-off that the product is no longer strategic to the company selling it. With so many changes still occurring in the SRM market, users should only evaluate products that have had new product releases in the last 12 to 18 months.

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