By Lisa Coleman
Over the next six months, more and more vendors will be shipping automated policy-based storage management software, which analysts say is the next evolutionary stage for storage resource management (SRM) tools.
Policy-based SRM products will enable users to set policies to automate a variety of functions, including provisioning and re-allocating storage, deleting and compressing files, and backing up data.
For example, ProvisionSoft, a start-up based in Andover, MA, last week began shipping its DynamicIT software, which allows users to automatically provision storage and server resources and do automatic resource discovery. The software can be also configured to run in "push-button mode," whereby the software prompts administrators and asks for permission to perform these functions. Similar products have recently been introduced by CreekPath Systems and Invio Software.
DynamicIT 1.0 uses "intelligent engines" that sit on top of server and storage management tools. The software keeps track of past and current resource use and, based on resource utilization history, predicts and provisions the necessary storage and server resources.
In addition to its predictive features, the software allows administrators to set various service levels, depending on the requirements of a particular group or department, a function some other products do not have, claims Joe Maloney, president and CEO of ProvisionSoft. If a company's finance department needs more storage and additional access to servers, the software can redirect resources.
The software runs on Windows NT/2000 and Solaris and initially works with EMC and Hewlett-Packard disk arrays. It can also extract data from management frameworks such as HP's OpenView.
Analysts urge caution when choosing new SRM tools. Users should know exactly what they do and don't want to automate, says Dennis Martin, an analyst with The Evaluator Group consulting firm. "How comfortable are you automating things that up to now have been manual processes, and how much approval do you want to have?"
While many vendors claim complete automation, some allow for adjustable automation so that administrators can determine the appropriate level of automation. For example, they can opt for e-mail alerts and manual approvals before the software begins provisioning; or users can direct the software to automatically provision without an administrator's approval.
A variety of automated policy-based management products are expected by year-end--all claiming to save users time and money by turning labor-intensive tasks such as provisioning or allocating storage into automated tasks that only take minutes.