SAN Management Software reduces TCO, increases ROI

Posted on October 01, 2001

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SPECIAL REPORT

Fabric-attached storage network management software can slash total cost of ownership while improving return on investment.

BY RICHARD R. LEE AND HARRIETT L. BENNETT

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In an industry awash with loosely defined terminology, perhaps the phrase with the haziest definition is storage management software. It appears to mean almost anything that any vendor wants it to, with no standardized usage by either industry groups or storage analysts.

However, what everyone seems to understand is that the software required to manage fabric-attached storage (FAS) environments is the key to finally reining in the high costs of storage ownership. Where uncertainty seems to arise is in determining the scope of software needed to build a storage management solution that delivers this return on investment (ROI).

New network-based storage architectures, especially storage area networks (SANs), promise to significantly reduce the cost of storage and management through consolidation and virtualization. Yet in the big IT picture, the overall complexity that these new storage networks introduce can actually add to the IT administration burden, especially if the storage management paradigm does not go beyond device management.

Despite the onslaught of numerous vendors and innovations in network storage technology over the past few years, SAN deployments as part of an overall enterprise storage strategy are still relatively small in scope and number. According to recent industry analysis, storage management costs are higher than the cost of the storage hardware itself, and most enterprises still perceive SANs to be too expensive and complex to implement on a large scale. Obviously, the ROI for storage networks is not compelling enough to justify initial and ongoing expenses if the costs of managing the new storage infrastructure cannot be significantly reduced.

Defined in the broadest sense, the reach of storage management software extends from existing enterprise management frameworks down to the device and subsystem management levels. It is doubtful that many enterprise-wide end-to-end solutions exist today. The hesitancy to deploy heterogeneous SANs, which is what most users want, is largely due to the administrative complexity that these networks and all their devices add to an already overburdened IT staff. However, SAN management software providers promise to overcome the hurdles of managing complex storage networks and to continue to reduce administrative efforts as their technologies evolve to the state where storage as a utility can be driven by applications through automated policies.

Numerous storage management software vendors today offer some or all of the software components of an enterprise storage management scheme. Currently, the critical space of the storage management software market where enterprises are looking to achieve the greatest savings is the area we will refer to as fabric-attached storage network management (FAS-NM).

FAS-NM includes functionality for discovering infrastructure devices and centrally controlling them through a number of discovery, monitoring, and policy-based SAN management functions.

There are many different approaches to FAS network management that address how this layer of software fits into the bigger scheme of IT management. These approaches include interfaces to higher-level applications such as data protection and enterprise management frameworks, as well as underlying technologies such as virtualization (disk and tape) and storage resource management (SRM). At the outset of a network storage design effort, the architectural approach must address the need for all these related levels of storage management in order to achieve the highest possible ROI.

FAS-NM in the big scheme of IT

The gamut of software that relates to FAS network management can be depicted as a stack with enterprise management frameworks at the top, moving down to storage subsystem managers and FAS device managers at the bottom (see chart on p. 24). The layers in between comprise the key elements of storage management that can deliver the biggest administrative cost savings: data protection, file sharing, FAS-NM, storage virtualization, and SRM.

In the middle of the stack is FAS network management, the software that provides centralization and streamlining of the administrative functions that are consuming inordinate amounts of network and storage administrative resources today. Not only do administrators have to maintain availability, but they also expend an increasing amount of effort facilitating new hardware installations, along with all of the configuration changes that a dynamic storage environment entails. As infrastructures become more complex, new problems arise, the frequency and variety of updates increase, and storage management efforts accelerate to keep up with the growing amounts of data and applications. FAS network management software promises to alleviate these challenges by automating the management of storage network topologies and devices based upon user-defined policies and attributes. As such, storage becomes more of a "utility."

FAS network management software enables users to manage storage network assets to varying degrees. To move toward the ultimate goal of a storage utility managed by automated policies, FAS-NM software must interface with the other layers of the FAS management model.


Fabric-attached storage network management comprises a number of product categories, ranging from device managers to enterprise management frameworks.
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The idea that line-of-business applications will eventually drive storage management means that throughout the fabric, these various components of storage management are communicating the information that shapes storage management policies via APIs and distributed intelligence methods. The more automated the implementation of storage management policies becomes, the lower the total cost of storage administration.

Most FAS network management software interfaces with enterprise management frameworks via SNMP and APIs. Infrastructure devices are discovered and managed in several ways, including SNMP, agent software, and APIs. Support of virtualization is expected to be the next major step in the evolution of FAS-NM, which promises to further consolidate storage administration tasks. These solutions will also require well-defined APIs to significantly reduce storage management costs.

There are significant benefits that can be realized today from a successful implementation of SAN management software. In the longer term, the value of an investment in this software will be proven by the impact of its contribution to overall storage management through its assimilation with the other elements of enterprise management frameworks, data protection, and both block- and file-level virtualization schemes. Depending on their core competencies, the vendors in this space take either a top-down or bottom-up approach to FAS-NM.

Device management

A big stepping stone to storage administration consolidation and automation is the device management software that discovers devices, renders topologies, and provides centralized management for all of the hardware elements in the network. This functionality is widely available, with no fewer than eight vendors. Some products belong to a suite of enterprise software that addresses many facets of SAN management. Other products were built from the ground up by companies that focus on device management as the mainstay of their software offerings.

Device management software can be evaluated on its ability to provide value through features, including

  • Automated discovery of devices on the network and the level of information that can be captured;
  • Extent of device support for open systems SANs and network-attached storage (NAS), network components, and legacy devices;
  • User interface and flexibility of viewing topologies and drilling down to detailed information;
  • Automation of configuration, status reports and alerts, and proactive network management functions; and
  • Ability to interface to other management applications, including data protection, file sharing, and enterprise management frameworks.

Storage resource management

SRM is a long-established toolset that originated in the mainframe market when disk capacity and bandwidth were still very expensive. It has recently re-emerged in the storage network market, with many new capabilities. In general, SRM looks at storage as a resource and provides monitoring, analysis, prediction, and reporting across the entire network storage environment, including all devices, subsystems, and logical/virtual volumes. This information is used to enable local and remote management of storage resources and provide for future requirements.

Enterprise management frameworks

Enterprise/FAS management frameworks are designed to bridge the gap between the line of business application and the entire FAS physical infrastructure. They are the most comprehensive management platforms for use in FAS environments and provide the high-level management capabilities required for reducing the total cost of storage ownership and facilitating the ROI that FAS environments can ultimately offer. These frameworks use a mixture of methods to monitor and manage applications, subsystems, and devices. These methods are based on SNMP traps and MIBs, agents and knowledge modules, APIs, and other proprietary schemes.

Key players

A number of vendors have implemented fabric-attached storage network management suites, either internally or via OEM/reseller partnerships (see chart on p. 26). Following is a sampling of those vendors' products.

BMC

BMC is well-known for its PATROL enterprise management framework and is now concentrating on networks. Consistent with BMC's focus on the role of applications and how to manage them, the company has honed in on Application-Centric Storage Management (ACSM) as its platform for FAS. A major component of this product suite is the PATROL Storage Resource Manager, which provides monitoring and reporting of file systems, volumes, volume groups, capacity, and performance information. PATROL Storage Network Manager provides topological views of physical storage devices and facilities for centralized configuration and monitoring of heterogeneous storage network elements.

The company's application management offering has been recently re-focused on supporting the needs of the emerging FAS space. PATROL Storage Resource Manager takes an application viewpoint in terms of management and looks at the underlying business processes and how they relate to the entire storage environment in respect to both resources and the infrastructure around them. PATROL is based on knowledge modules optimized for all major applications, subsystems, and components. www.bmc.com/solutions/storage/.

Computer Associates

CA has consolidated and re-branded its storage management and protection products under the BrightStor name (see InfoStor, August 2001, p. 1). The first product under this new brand is BrightStor Enterprise Backup, with centralized management of all backup-and-recovery tasks on heterogeneous servers. A key component of this new family of network-based storage products is Enterprise Storage Manager, currently in beta and expected to ship next year. It is a scaled-down version of Unicenter specifically designed for network storage environments and is coupled with other BrightStor data-protection products as well as a wide range of subsystems, NAS, and infrastructure devices. CA-Vantage Open Systems is the BrightStor product for enterprise-wide cross-platform SRM. www.computerasso ciates.com/solutions/enterprise/storage/.

Compaq

Compaq is moving away from being primarily a storage hardware provider to one that can deliver end-to-end solutions, including a comprehensive management platform. The company hopes to be the first to deliver a storage utility based on an open systems approach. This requires a comprehensive management platform that reaches from the infrastructure across the enterprise to the application level. It includes the VersaStor virtualization scheme as well as the SANworks suite of applications, tools, and utilities.

As a component of its ENSA Global Storage Network strategy, Compaq has a suite of tools designed to reduce the TCO of storage, while increasing data availability and accessibility across the enterprise. Compaq's SRM software is a component of the SANworks Storage Utility Man agement Suite product family and provides management and reporting on all storage resources. SANworks Network View is a Web-based software tool for mapping, monitoring, and managing devices in SAN topologies. Compaq also offers the SANworks Management Appliance for SAN element management. www.compaq.com/storage/ensa2vision.html.

Fujitsu Softek

Fujitsu Software (Fujitsu Softek) entered the storage management software market this summer with a suite of products, some internally developed and some OEM'd (see InfoStor, May 2001, p. 1). The company's data storage management tools include Backup, Network Edition (OEM'd from Legato); Backup Monitor; and DR Manager for disaster recovery.

Fujitsu Softek's packages for managing storage infrastructures include Transparent Data Migration Facility (TDMF, from Amdahl) and Storage Virtualization, which is based on code from DataCore Software. The company also sells an SRM package, the SANView fabric manager, and EnView QoS monitoring tool. www.softek.fujitsu.com.

Hewlett-Packard

The HP OpenView storage area manager suite encompasses tools for data and storage management in heterogeneous environments. OpenView storage area management software includes OpenView Storage Node Manager for storage network device management. Storage Node Manager, like other HP software tools, can be integrated with HP OpenView Operations or other network management systems for monitoring applications via SNMP. The OpenView storage area management suite also includes products for storage allocation, resource management, optimization, and accounting. OpenView Omniback II backup/restore software and Omnistorage HSM round out HP's data management products within the storage area management suite. www.hp.com.

IBM/Tivoli

Tivoli has expanded beyond its Storage Manager suite to embrace network storage environments with Tivoli Storage Network Manager. The focus is on providing policy-based storage management, enabled with active monitoring and reporting on the status of all storage assets and applications across heterogeneous environments. Tivoli claims that most of what administrators want today can be accomplished with policy-based management. With an open systems orientation, Tivoli aims to provide end-point solutions that can be stitched together into a fabric.

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Tivoli Storage Network Manager uses both in-band and out-of-band methods to manage and manipulate storage fabrics. Based on technology used in its TME framework, Tivoli supports all types of fabric topologies and protocols. The company's approach is to use policy-based management to lower TCO. The features of Tivoli Storage Network Manager encompass SAN discovery and monitoring, disk/LUN management, file system automation, and event reporting. Using Tivoli NetView, SANs, LANs, and WANs can be monitored from a single console. www.tivoli.com/products/solutions/ storage/news.html.

InterSAN

This month, InterSAN began shipping an FAS-NM solution that centralizes and automates the management of enterprise fabrics. It provides for the automatic provisioning of storage resources and binds in an object-based manner the application and its data no matter where it may reside in the storage network environment. This relationship between an application and its data is referred to as a Virtual Private DataPath and encompasses the entire infrastructure and storage devices associated with each data object. These objects can be structured to provide specific levels and quality of service that are dependent specifically upon the needs of each application. www.intersan.net.

Prisa Networks

Prisa's flagship product line, VisualSAN Network Manager, addresses FAS management with a software suite for service-level management of SANs. VisualSAN Network Manager discovers, monitors, and manages SAN devices.

With VisualSAN Network Manager's Event Manager, events can be logged, correlated, and filtered and can activate alerts based on user-defined policies. Per formance visualization, analysis, and threshold alerting are possible in real-time with VisualSAN Performance Manager.

As a pure-play storage network management software company, Prisa markets primarily to the OEM channel and has a strategic agreement with Compaq. Prisa's intent is to provide software building blocks that include APIs for third-party SAN management applications. Prisa plans to support co-existent NAS, InfiniBand, and iSCSI environments along with Fibre Channel SANs. www.prisa.com.

SANavigator/McData

SAN avigator, recently acquired by McData, augments McData's Enterprise Solutions Architecture by providing software for SAN planning, device discovery, configuration, and monitoring. With support for Java-based, multiple-platform clients, SANavigator handles device visualization and management of local and remote SAN devices. Its client-server architecture enables scaling by implementing multiple SANavigator servers that can act as agents. The vision for SANavigator aligns with the evolution of network intelligence, where routine and repetitive functions are offloaded to SANavigator software according to policies. www.sanavigator.com.

TeraCloud

TeraCloud, formerly Trilogy Software, has been in the SRM space for some time with a strong presence in the mainframe market. The company more recently entered the network storage segment with the SpaceNet solutions, which are designed to take the capabilities that the company has been providing to data- center customers and apply them to network-based storage environments. TeraCloud's products discover and manage storage networks in both mainframe and distributed environments across global enterprises. Policy-based automation enables monitoring, tracking, and initiation of actions according to rules or event-specific thresholds at the enterprise, global, departmental, and device levels. www.tcloud.com.

Veritas

Veritas has a far-reaching product suite for network-based storage under the name of SANPoint Control. A critical component of this broad offering of tools, utilities, and applications is the SRM product. Veritas has built an analysis and reporting function, based on its suite of volume management software and file systems, into SANPoint Control. This functionality provides a view of physical and logical storage assets and facilitates the delivery of specific quality of service (QoS) levels to storage users.

SANPoint Control is the cornerstone of Veritas' foray into network-based storage. It comprises many components and looks at FAS from applications to infrastructure. The suite is a framework for integrating management, virtualization, backup and recovery, HSM, and other capabilities. www.veritas.com/products/category/ProductDetail.jhtml?productId=sanpoint control.

Vixel

As an early entrant in the storage infrastructure market, Vixel's SAN InSite Professional management software has amassed a comprehensive list of supported devices and options for viewing and managing them through a customizable GUI. With advanced health monitoring through direct device communication, SAN InSite Professional provides an extensive set of device and port state information. Both manual and automatic adding and discovery of devices can be accomplished on-the-fly. Its Java-based client-server implementation is extensible through APIs and a software developer's kit. For non-standard SNMP devices, Vixel offers an OEM module for discovery and management. www.vixel.com.

Summary and analysis

FAS management has emerged as the most critical component of the enhanced ROI and reduced TCO that the storage industry has been promising for many years. With the costs of storage hardware, networking bandwidth, and CPU cycles falling rapidly, the true financial challenge that end users have is in managing these complex environments with fewer and fewer resources. At the same time, they have to contend with ever-increasing storage growth and attendant data-protection requirements.

Lowering costs while increasing capabilities requires a comprehensive FAS management solution that reaches from physical devices, through the applications that drive them, all the way to enterprise management frameworks. Only by embracing such an end-to-end solution can IT organizations get the maximum benefits that networked storage can provide. This ROI-driven approach is the compelling force behind all IT decisions today.

It is clear that FAS management is a focal point of every vendor's product development and portfolio expansion efforts. All vendors have come to realize that the blind pursuit of success based upon hardware, supported by proprietary management software and applications, will not fly. The vendor community at large has a long way to go and a lot of lost ground to make up for, but with the incentives of major revenue opportunities and customer lock-in, they are responding accordingly.


Richard R. Lee is president and Harriett L. Bennett is vice president of strategic marketing services at Data Storage Technologies, a consulting firm based in Ridgewood, NJ.


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