By Lisa Coleman
CreekPath Systems, formerly a storage service provider (SSP), recently began shipping automated policy-based storage management software. The Application Intelligent Management (AIM) suite is a compilation of four types of products that integrate policy-based management and automatic storage provisioning and include storage resource management (SRM) and storage network management (SNM) functionality.
Victor Walker, CEO and president of CreekPath, claims that existing storage management software does not provide the ability to manage a storage network with full automation of all the tasks.
The core product in the AIM suite is software that continuously monitors storage resource status across a storage network. It provides functions such as auto-discovery of devices, physical and logical topology mapping, and monitoring of the health and performance of the network with application-centric policy management. For example, it is possible to identify which ports, spindles, and wires are dedicated to a specific business application.
The rest of the AIM suite includes additional modules for automation and applications. For example, a process automation module (PAM) automates process-driven, policy-based storage management and provisioning. While the AIM platform is managing and monitoring the storage fabric, the PAM manages and provisions each storage device. PAMs are currently available for disk arrays from EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, LSI, StorageTek, and Sun. PAMs also support Brocade and McData switches. CreekPath will offer support for InRange's switches early next year, as well as support for NAS devices from vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and Network Appliance.
The scenario automation module (SAM) allows administrators to set up storage policies such as file system and database volumes. Finally, a business application module (BAM) allows an application to provision its own storage. Currently, CreekPath provides an Oracle BAM and, early next year, will offer BAMs for other applications such as Exchange and SAP.
The AIM suite is priced according to the number of ports in the SAN, but Walker declined to provide specifics. He says that EMC's AutoIS--as well as software from vendors such as BMC and Veritas--is CreekPath's primary competitor.
According to Dennis Martin, an analyst with The Evaluator Group, none of the large vendors have similar automated policy-based management software, although all of those vendors as well as several start-ups are working on similar functionality.
"Storage professionals understand that, with the growth of storage, they have to figure out a way to manage it differently and control management costs," says Martin, "and policy automation is one of the main ways to do that."
Martin predicts that automated, policy-based storage management software will be in high demand, especially because it can offer huge time savings. For example, if an enterprise has a large amount of heterogeneous systems--operating systems and storage devices--and it needs to get more storage space out of its existing hardware, administrators must manually search their systems for the extra space. Automated policy-based software could cut the time required for tasks like that from days to minutes, according to Martin.
"And the economic value is easily demonstrated," says Martin. "That's why there are so many start-ups and that's why everybody is trying to do this."