SAN management software requires component integration

Posted on May 01, 2002

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By Richard R. Lee and Harriett L. Bennett

Many point products are available, but end users are demanding integrated, interoperable, end-to-end solutions.

When we last addressed the topic of storage area network (SAN) management software six months ago, the industry was still distilling this concept into discernable levels of functionality, each with unique business benefits. Since then, vendors have further refined management components and merged them into comprehensive portfolios that in many cases span from the management of physical devices to enterprise management integration.

Software components of an end-to-end storage management strategy can be viewed as tiers in a stack (see figure), ranging from enterprise management frameworks down to fabric-attached storage (FAS) device managers. Much of the discussion in our previous article focused on the middle layers of FAS network and storage resource management (see "SAN management software reduces TCO, increases ROI," InfoStor, October 2001, p. 21). Many end users were already taking advantage of functionality found in these critical areas, especially with SAN topology management.

In this article, we will analyze the bigger picture in terms of how the industry has progressed in delivering comprehensive storage management strategies and product portfolios, as opposed to point solutions, to deliver true storage "utilities."

To reiterate the theme of our last report, storage management software is now the center of the storage universe. Advances in infrastructure hardware, topologies, storage devices, and point solutions are important, but do not themselves deliver the business benefits that end users are demanding. It is the complete range of software used for attribute-based management of fabrics that paves the way to storage utilities. All the functional levels of software—from subsystem managers and virtualization to file-sharing and business continuance applications—must work in concert to enable storage to be administered according to policies and for it to be abstracted from underlying devices on an automated basis. No single layer of storage management can deliver on the true potential value of attribute-based management unless it fits seamlessly into a cooperative framework.

The coupling of software functionality to specific hardware platforms must be broken in order for today's management chaos to give way to seamless, end-to-end SAN management. And management solutions will not deliver true business value unless they are based on a comprehensive set of open standards. The need for openness is simple economics: If software and hardware are co-dependent and only available from limited sources, then price levels stay high and the economic value delivered to end users is diminished.

SAN management software vendors have some interesting choices to make. Vendors are challenged by end users' demand for openness in several different ways. First, there are the venerable platform vendors—most notably Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sun—that want to protect and grow their hardware revenues. Similarly, EMC walks a thin line between guarding its profitable storage platforms while providing software that can augment the value of competitive products.

Hardware vendors have to make sure their software promotes functionality that can differentiate their storage products in an increasingly commodity hardware market. The dilemma for these vendors is that end users want freedom of choice in both hardware and software, as well as lower total cost of ownership. Inevitably, the winning software strategy must come at the expense of the hardware side of the vendor's business.

The major independent software suppliers are also striving to meet end-user demand for comprehensive storage management suites. These players include heavyweights BMC, Computer Associates, Tivoli, and Veritas, as well as the relatively new Fujitsu Softek and start-ups such as InterSAN. Unencumbered by hardware allegiances, these companies come from a position of strength in delivering end-to-end SAN management.

Longtime leaders in the enterprise management framework market, BMC, Computer Associates, and Tivoli are extending their expertise down the hierarchy to encompass all layers of the storage management model. Veritas is extending its vision beyond data protection and file systems to topology management, virtualization, and other elements. Fujitsu Softek aims to parlay its traditional strength in mainframe storage management into an end-to-end open systems solution through internally developed products, as well as partnerships and acquisitions. InterSAN, currently the only start-up in this group, takes a top-down, application-centric approach to provide policy-based management as the core of its offerings.

Like the traditional server and storage subsystem vendors, most of these independent software suppliers face the quandary of protecting their flagship products while facilitating interoperability with third-party applications, utilities, and tools. What if an end user prefers, for example, the backup software of one vendor and the virtualization engine of another? Will they be able to successfully implement a fully integrated, multi-vendor solution?

For all vendors, the stakes are high. According to the Aberdeen Group consulting firm, in Boston, storage management software and services constituted 15.4% (almost $8 billion) of the total storage market last year. With a projected 27.7% compound annual growth rate (which far outpaces growth in hardware expenditures), storage management software is expected to account for 22.6% (nearly $21 billion) of total storage spending in 2005.


Business benefits are optimized when storage management software is integrated with the rest of a policy-and attribute-based IT management portfolio. At the highest level of integration, storage is managed in the context of applications.
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In the first half of this year, many SAN management software products made their way out of the labs into end-user environments. Administrative productivity is rising, thanks to topology management tools, storage resource management, virtualization, centralized fabric-based backup, mirroring, and other key enabling technologies. But even with all this new functionality, the complexity of managing FAS has not diminished appreciably. End users want both heterogeneity and simplicity, which are often contradictory. To get the best of both worlds requires that the industry agree on an overall storage management framework that consists of well-defined APIs that allow for suites of products that co-exist and interoperate.

All of the SAN management software vendors are striving to deliver storage utilities based on numerous attributes such as service levels and quality of service. Each of the vendors is taking a slightly different path toward this common goal as they continue to build out their software portfolios and API sets. We limited this brief review of SAN management software to vendors with multi-level products that cover all, or most, of the product tiers in the figure.

BMC Software
BMC takes an "application-centric" approach to storage management, with the goal of delivering end-to-end software solutions where policy is based on application (versus storage) needs. The PATROL storage management technology stack ranges from device and topology management to the Application Storage Resource Manager and also includes APIs to third-party backup software and enterprise management frameworks. BMC's strategy puts a high priority on policy management, with a particular focus on storage resource management (SRM). As an independent software vendor, the company maintains hardware neutrality and continues to leverage its experience in enterprise resource management and file system expertise to interface with complementary, as well as competitive, software products.

PATROL Storage Resource Manager enables capacity planning, quota and performance management, and cost accounting. The Application Storage Resource Manager correlates storage assets to specific business applications, including Oracle, Microsoft SQL and Exchange, Sybase, and Siebel. In the near term, BMC plans to enhance ease-of-use features and take its per-terabyte licensing model to the indirect channel. In the longer term, expect to see further integration with areas of the storage management hierarchy such as virtualization and business continuance applications that are not part of BMC's current product portfolio. www.bmc.com.

Compaq
In the past, Compaq licensed most of its storage management software from other vendors (e.g., Legato and Veritas). Today, Compaq has a wide range of products that it developed internally to augment what it continues to license from other vendors (including Prisa Networks for SAN management). Compaq's internally developed products encompass host-, array-, and appliance-based software.

Compaq's management software supports various types of functionality, including mirroring, copy and snapshot, virtualization, and backup. These functions are in turn supported by specific stand-alone or distributed applications to provide infrastructure monitoring and management, SRM, and business continuity (replication). The entire portfolio of storage management products has been designed for compliance with emerging SNIA API standards, as well as initiatives such as EMC's WideSky.

Compaq's storage management products are sold under the SANWorks brand name and support most operating systems. They also support many other vendors' storage solutions and virtually all fabric infrastructure devices. Support for leading network-attached storage (NAS) appliances is expected in the near future. www.compaq.com/storage/software_index.html.

Computer Associates
CA's BrightStor software for storage management, announced last summer, initially included backup products for enterprises (BrightStor Enterprise Backup) and small to medium- sized installations (BrightStor ARCserve Backup). Since then, the product line has expanded to include a High-Availability Manager, Mobile Backup, and backup for CA's flagship enterprise management framework, Unicenter.

In April, CA took another step toward enabling a storage utility with the launch of its portal technology. The BrightStor Portal is a management umbrella for all storage solutions in an enterprise, including those from both partners and competitors. Vendors such as Brocade, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, and Network Appliance are reportedly writing applications that can take advantage of the portal.

The BrightStor Portal, a Web-based piece of CA's management platform, integrates all storage-related information collected across an enterprise. The portal can be customized for the content in windows such as storage utilization and device management and can integrate with Unicenter so that storage can be managed in conjunction with networks.

With its hardware neutrality and long-time presence in the enterprise management space, CA is taking a top-down approach to policy-based storage management. With a portal to Unicenter, as well as BrightStor backup products, CA addresses the need for rules-based storage management at the business continuance and enterprise framework management levels. www.ca.com.

EMC
With its vast installed base of Symmetrix and Clariion hardware, EMC has garnered a considerable share of the storage management software market. As part of its AutoIS (Automated Information Storage) platform strategy, WideSky is the middleware that extends EMC's storage management tools for use in non-EMC environments. WideSky is intended to serve as a collective translator using the CIM object-oriented model for management data, as well as a means to connect certain non-CIM legacy devices and software to a centralized management framework. The framework can be EMC's ControlCenter Open Edition or frameworks from other vendors such as BMC, CA, or HP. WideSky offers three levels of APIs: storage, connectivity, and SRM.

EMC is plowing headlong into the open systems fray, betting that the strong presence of ControlCenter in enterprise data centers will push the shifting winds of standards their way. Success in asserting market dominance depends on the fine line EMC has to walk with its APIs—specifically, leveraging the functionality of its other products while providing middleware that does not compromise the functionality in the products it manages. Along with ControlCenter and WideSky, EMC's storage management portfolio under the AutoIS strategy includes EMC Control Center, Replication Manager, and StorageScope SAN resource reporting software. www.emc.com/technology/widesky.jsp.

Fujitsu Softek
Spun out of Amdahl, and launched a year ago, Fujitsu Softek is gaining momentum in part by capturing market share from competitors with point solutions as opposed to a complete portfolio. Fujitsu Softek's strategy is to build an end-to-end storage management suite using both internal development as well as licensing and acquiring components and companies. Softek's products cover mainframe, open systems, and appliance environments, with integration of the elements via the Storage Manager console.

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Softek's portfolio includes centralized and automated resource management (Storage Manager), virtualization (via DataCore Software's SANsymphony), replication (TDMF), backup (Legato NetWorker), infrastructure monitoring and management (SANView), along with quality of service, system monitoring, and reporting, and other tools. Softek is also working closely with the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and industry partners to develop standardized APIs.

Earlier this year, Fujitsu Softek acquired Vixel's SAN management software. www.softek.fujitsu.com.

Hewlett-Packard
In 2001, Hewlett-Packard announced its Federated Storage Area Management (FSAM) strategy and product portfolio, which is designed to provide an enterprise-wide view of storage. One goal is to increase storage scalability by an order of magnitude within the same physical footprint and with the same staff levels. To accomplish these goals, HP has created a portfolio that includes Storage Node Manager (devices), Storage Builder (capacity), Storage Optimizer (performance), Storage Accountant (charge back), Storage Allocator (access), Omniback (data protection), and virtualization (SANLink). All these products fit into the overall FSAM architecture, which can be integrated into HP's OpenView framework.

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HP provides these products as point solutions and as an integrated suite. All are part of the company's attribute-based model. HP has also been active in developing standard APIs (internally and within SNIA) to allow easy integration of its software modules with other management tools and enterprise frameworks. www.managementsoftware.hp.com/products/.

IBM/Tivoli
Tivoli and IBM's Storage Systems Group are now sharing ownership for both the organization's overall storage management strategy and its product portfolio as part of a more aggressive push into the market. This has created some confusion among customers, because the two groups have different partners and product sets.

To alleviate some of this potential confusion, the two groups have the following individual focuses. Tivoli is responsible for the current line of "storage manager" products, which includes SAN management, SRM, backup and recovery, topology monitoring and discovery, and a number of application-specific automation modules to support business continuity.

The Storage Systems Group is responsible for new initiatives, including "Storage Tank" (a fabric file system), "Compass" (block-level virtualization), eLIZA (autonomic storage), and other products. www.tivoli.com/products/solutions/storage/news.html.

InterSAN
InterSAN's strategy is to take an application-centric view of storage management (from a top-down perspective) and to embody this in management constructs that establish a logical relationship between each application and its data. This relationship spans from physical devices to logical images to virtual abstractions, with an eye on improving operational efficiencies. InterSAN's Pathline platform supports assets and applications from a variety of providers, with an exclusive focus on using policy-based management constructs and templates to determine and facilitate service level agreements and optimal data pathing. www.intersan.net.

Sun Microsystems
Sun had been a long-time partner with Veritas in the storage management space, but as part of its "Storage ONE" initiative, Sun launched a portfolio of products with its StorEdge brand. These products are all Solaris-centric (with limited support for other operating system environments) and provide the following functionality: infrastructure monitoring and management, SRM, subsystem management, file sharing and load balancing (NFS), backup, disaster recovery and business continuity (remote mirroring and point-in-time snapshot), and resource charge back. All are designed to be sold as suites or layered together to provide end-to-end storage management in Solaris environments.

Sun is working closely with SNIA and other standards groups to establish a comprehensive set of APIs for interfacing to its storage management products. www.sun.com/storage/.

Veritas
Regarded by most research firms as the leading provider (or at least tied for the lead with EMC) of storage management software to the open systems market, Veritas has an end-to-end product strategy for FAS management. Veritas' approach leverages its Volume Manager and File System software, applying additional levels of functionality on top of these to facilitate virtualization, replication and migration, device monitoring and control, and data protection. The products are host- and appliance-based, with "agents" being embedded into a variety of operating systems via Volume Manager.

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Veritas has had many fits and starts in the fabric space of the market since the much- heralded launch of its strategy. The company has changed the names of key products and initiatives several times along the way, leaving many end users confused. But today's strategy appears much more focused and less aggressive in terms of scope. www.veritas.com/products/listing/.

Common APIs needed
As always, users should be wary of vendor lock-in. Hardware APIs are common, but software APIs are not proliferating in the same way. Standard software APIs are required in order for end users to mix and match products. If a customer wants to use one vendor's topology management software, another vendor's SRM, and yet another vendor's virtualization software, the only option may be to cobble it together at their own risk.

Unlike the more mature network management market, storage management software APIs are not yet fully driven by standards committees.

SNIA's CIM/WBEM announcements and demonstrations in April marked progress toward the goal of a common interface for the management of multi-vendor storage networks.

Software vendors would be well advised to jump on the bandwagon and embrace CIM/WBEM and other standards without regard to hardware allegiances.

Suppliers of hardware and software have responded well to end users' demand for hardware openness through interoperability labs and adoption of standards. This same model of interoperability must evolve within the storage software industry. When this openness is achieved, vendors will vie for business on equal footing with quality and service, not exclusivity of interfaces, being the differentiating factors.

Despite the remaining hurdles, the role of SAN management software has become the most critical technology that storage administrators must embrace to ensure the success of FAS.

Richard R. Lee is president and CEO and Harriett L. Bennett is vice president of strategic marketing services at The Storage Consulting Group (formerly Data Storage Technologies) in Ridgewood, NJ. (www.sanwarriors.com).


McData ships SANavigator 3.0

By Heidi Biggar

This month, McData began shipments of the 3.0 version of its SANavigator SAN management software. The latest release encompasses elements of SAN planning, discovery, management, and automation.

Of the variety of new features, a new policy engine and API strategy are perhaps most notable. With release 3.0, SANavigator users can not only automate certain tasks (through policy-based management) in response to SAN events, but also integrate with various applications and devices.

The company has developed three types of APIs, or "connectors":

  • Element connectors for better device control (e.g., device management and diagnostics reporting);
  • Fabric connectors for integrating functionality (e.g., discovery and topology, asset management, zoning, and security); and
  • Application connectors for broader application support (e.g., virtualization and management frameworks).

McData also added a variety of new reporting, monitoring, and search tools.


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