By Lisa Coleman
Building on its foundations in IP and server modeling, OPNET Technologies is offering an alternative to costly "test-bed" approaches used for validating infrastructure architectures and predicting application performance in storage network scenarios.
The company is expanding its flagship software, called IT Guru, to include simulation-based analysis of both IP and Fibre Channel fabrics. Using the software, users can build a "virtual" (offline) replica of the network for analyzing and predicting behavior of the end-to-end infrastructure, including clients, hosts, fabric, and back-end storage.
"Setting up hardware environments for testing is expensive, and it's often very difficult to accurately profile an application while accounting for user, workload, and server sensitivities," says Tom Thompson, principal technologist for OPNET's enterprise solutions. "That's not easy to recreate in a lab, but we have the flexibility to do it."
That flexibility includes detailed representations of device configurations, such as servers or storage routers, along with the resources used by each device. The price for a single-seat license is $33,000 for a typical base configuration designed for storage network analysis.
IT managers can simulate their environment by dragging and dropping their specific devices into a software model. Each device is already created with the number of ports, and throughput, for example, leaving the user with the simple task of applying the appropriate connections. The software has XML import capabilities that can be used to create and automatically populate the model.
"IT Guru can accommodate virtually any type of storage transaction going across the fabric," explains Steve Johnson, director of storage networking at OPNET.
The software can model a backup-and-restore application and the issues affecting how the application operates. For example, how much bandwidth is required? Is it moving across an enterprise intranet, and is it using shared resources? If so, is there any network protocol overhead and/or contention occurring that could cause performance issues?
"With our software, you can determine, for a given amount of data movement, the capacity that will be required to accomplish the task in a given amount of time," explains Johnson.
IT Guru can help analyze storage consolidation scenarios, predicting the impact on infrastructure and application response times. It also addresses business continuity by assessing if an infrastructure can accommodate specific backup-and-restore requirements and meet service level agreements for data replication. In addition, the software can predict storage network performance and resiliency and validate remote storage architectures.
While modeling and simulation carry the promise of replicating storage networks, how do they compare to the actual environment? "Our software models are based on the same industry-standard specifications [governed by industry organizations like IETF, ANSI, and T11] as used by the equipment manufacturers. Therefore, the models yield the same behavior during a simulation as would be found in a 'real-world' deployment on a physical network," says Johnson.
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