Putting together the pieces of SAN management software

Posted on May 01, 2003

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To ease the complexity of managing heterogeneous storage networks, vendors are moving toward standards such as SMI-S.

By Richard R. Lee and Harriett L. Bennett

This past year has seen major changes in the landscape of what is referred to as either the storage area management (SAM) or SAN management software segment of the storage market. Whatever your terminology preference, this critical segment of the fabric-attached storage (FAS) market has become the key focal point for many start-ups, as well as for all of the established players in the industry.

Since our last Special Report on SAN management software (see "SAN management software requires component integration," InfoStor, May 2002, p. 21), a number of smaller vendors were acquired by larger players to round out their portfolios (for example, Prisa and Astrum Software by EMC, Precise Software by Veritas, TrelliSoft by IBM, Vixel by Fujitsu Softek, etc.), while other vendors have continued to broaden their SAN management portfolios primarily via internal development efforts.

The SAN management software market now comprises a wide range of "portfolio players," all of which claim to offer end-to-end solutions encompassing a wide range of functions, including (but not limited to) infrastructure and device-level monitoring and reporting, storage resource management (SRM), replication and mirroring, business continuity, and automated provisioning. Each vendor claims hardware neutrality and support for most major devices and third-party APIs. In addition, most vendors plan to support emerging storage management standards such as SMI-S (see sidebar, "SMI-S to provide management standard," p. 31), and a handful of vendors are already complying with early versions of those standards.

However, all of the vendors are still struggling to gain end-user acceptance and market share in a challenging IT procurement environment. With few exceptions, most vendors continue to basically hold their own in their core product segments but have failed to achieve broad-based support for their entire portfolios.

What does this mean for end users and the market itself? In simple terms, the marketplace has reached an impasse of sorts, where the technology available is far more advanced than the needs of most end users. Often, the software cannot be justified in terms of capital expenditures due to the lack of a clear-cut return on investment (ROI). These factors have created a market where most of the providers of storage management software are struggling to meet sales, market share, and other performance targets.

To overcome this dilemma, vendors in the SAN management software community will have to demonstrate leadership as a whole, which will involve business issues such as cooperation and technology issues such as interoperability and support for emerging standards. This will require a major shift away from proprietary strategies to one where "openness" is the norm. This will in turn spawn software innovation, a reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO) and management complexity, elimination of interoperability barriers, and increased functionality, all of which will deliver on the original promises of SANs.

Bearing in mind that it is impossible to come up with a specific definition for SAN management software, the rest of this article profiles the software offerings from eight vendors that have relatively wide-ranging portfolios in terms of SAM functions and overall component integration. We also note some of the recent, and upcoming, enhancements to those portfolios.

Computer Associates

Computer Associates extended its BrightStor brand last year with the BrightStor Portal, a Web-based technology for centralized management of complex storage environments. More recently, CA added BrightStor Storage Resource Manager to its portfolio to provide enterprise-wide SRM functions with options for tuning and optimizing performance in applications such as Microsoft Exchange and Oracle, as well as in CA's own Alexandria and BrightStor ArcServe environments.

In January, CA announced BrightStor SAN Manager, a software solution that proactively manages heterogeneous SAN topologies through a GUI. Implemented with policy-based automation and support for an extensive list of SAN devices, BrightStor SAN Manager enables IT administrators to relate SAN capacity or availability issues to the business processes that are tied to the storage infrastructure. SAN Manager can be integrated with BrightStor Storage Resource Manager and CA's backup products, as well as other storage software via the BrightStor Portal. In addition, the software can be tightly coupled with CA's Unicenter management framework.

CA continues to expand its storage management software portfolio through acquisitions, most recently with the February purchase of Netreon Inc. (see "Computer Associates simplifies SAN design," InfoStor, March 2003, p. 14). Formerly available as SANexec Designer, BrightStor SAN Designer is a tool for visual design of SANs, life-cycle management, and other functions.

EMC

A year ago, EMC's foray into the open storage management software market sparked much debate over the openness of its API policy. What once was a heated debate has now subsided, partly because of EMC's focus on gaining traction where it has the most tread—in its huge installed base of Symmetrix and Clariion systems.

This year, EMC enhanced and extended its software offerings to become more integrated, yet modular, and added functionality in the area of SRM.

At the forefront of EMC's software suite and AutoIS strategy is its ControlCenter storage management software. With the recent release of Version 5.1, EMC has achieved the integration of storage management for EMC and non-EMC SANs, arrays, and software. This integration includes a ControlCenter GUI and repository interface for ControlCenter SAN Manager, with features such as LUN masking, zoning, and discovery for storage arrays such as IBM's ESS and HP's StorageWorks arrays. Support for Hitachi Data Systems, Network Appliance, and other vendors' systems will follow.

EMC also expanded data replication support beyond Oracle and Symmetrix TimeFinder to include database and replication products from HP, IBM, and Microsoft.

Perhaps the most significant new software module in EMC's SAM family is Automated Resource Manager (ARM), which provides provisioning driven by policies and business application requirements.

To strengthen its SRM software, EMC last month acquired Astrum Software, one of the few remaining independent SRM software vendors. It was EMC's ninth software acquisition since 2000. Astrum's SRM software includes automated file management, file-level reporting, and capacity utilization reporting.

EMC plans to make its monitoring and reporting module compliant with the SMI-S management standard this year, with active management (zoning, LUN masking, etc.) support coming later via the company's WideSky middleware. WideSky is a development tool that enables SMI-S compliance and allows ControlCenter to deliver on support for heterogeneous platforms.

Fujitsu Softek

Fujitsu Softek was spun out of Amdahl Corp. about two years ago and is investing heavily to gain momentum in the SAN management software market. After the launch of its automated SRM platform, Storage Manager, and the acquisition of Vixel's SAN Insite Manager software, Fujitsu Softek integrated an automated provisioning function based on code it acquired from DataCore Software.

Fujitsu Softek's SAM portfolio spans from mainframes to open systems environments and will eventually have full integration of all management modules into the Storage Manager console for a single management view of all types of storage.

Softek's portfolio now includes automated storage resource management (Storage Manager 2.1), virtualization (Storage Provisioner 2.1), replication (TDMF), business continuity (DR Manager and other software modules), infrastructure monitoring and management (SANView), Quality of Service (ServerView), system monitoring and reporting (EnView), and other tools. (For more information, see "Fujitsu Softek augments SRM software," p. 8.)

Hewlett-Packard

In Hewlett-Packard's SAN management software portfolio, all products are now prefixed with "OpenView" or "StorageWorks" before the name of the actual function that they serve (e.g., OpenView Storage Area Manager, StorageWorks Business Copy EVA, etc.). SAN management functions include monitoring, reporting, SRM, service level management, chargeback, storage virtualization, and provisioning. These products support the infrastructure products that both Compaq and HP had in their lineups at the time of the merger, along with all products announced since that time.

One of the additions to HP's portfolio is OpenView Storage Provisioner, an auto-provisioning tool for SANs (see "HP muscles into ARM market," InfoStor, December 2002, p. 10). The software falls into a category that some analysts call automated resource management (ARM). (For more information, see "ARM software saves time, money," InfoStor, November 2002, p. 1.)

Most recently, HP announced plans to combine its two storage virtualization platforms (see "HP to merge virtualization platforms," InfoStor, March 2003, p. 8). One platform is based on Compaq's VersaStor technology, and the other one is based on an appliance that HP got in its acquisition of StorageApps in 2001. The appliance has been renamed Continuous Access Storage Appliance (CASA).

HP has been a strong supporter of the SMI-S management standard and has compliant versions of SAM software and hardware solutions.

IBM/Tivoli

The lines of differentiation between the strategies of IBM's storage group (now folded back into the server division) and Tivoli's network storage group continue to be blurred to many outside of the organization. Despite this, both groups are working separately and together to bring a new generation of SAN management software products to market.

Tivoli continues to be responsible for the Storage Manager line of products, which covers SAN management, SRM, backup and recovery, topology monitoring and discovery, and a number of application-specific automation modules to facilitate business continuity. These products work with virtually all leading platforms (operating system, storage device, and infrastructure), and IBM is moving rapidly to support SMI-S and standard APIs. The current version of Storage Manager is Version 5.1, which has been optimized for higher levels of performance and functionality (including adding in the SRM tools that IBM acquired from TrelliSoft).

IBM is also rolling out its TotalStorage SAN File System (formerly code-named "Storage Tank") and a block-level virtualization appliance (the TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller).

IBM has also been pushing for wide-scale adoption of management standards such as SMI-S. Support for SMI-S is now included in IBM's ESS ("Shark") disk array.

InterSAN

Being the lone start-up in our lineup, InterSAN is working to achieve visibility against the larger players in the SAM market. However, the company's application-centric SAM strategy has begun to gain traction with large end-user organizations that are attempting to take a more strategic view of their storage requirements.

With its recent rollout of PathLine 2.5 software, InterSAN added SRM functionality, which now allows for automated storage provisioning (see "InterSAN adds SRM, boosts SAM automation," p. 8). Along with additional data gathering and reporting functions, this has created a more comprehensive SAM portfolio.

The Pathline platform continues to focus on application requirements as determined by service level agreements and data path requirements. InterSAN recently announced its first large customer deployment—Fidelity Investments, which is using InterSAN's management software across its entire enterprise.

Legato Systems

Since acquiring OTG Software last year, Legato has strengthened its portfolio of SAN management products significantly, resulting in a more complete management suite. Key to its software portfolio are two core platforms: the NetWorker backup and restore line of products and the Xtender family of data management modules (which Legato acquired from OTG).

Those products are complemented by a number of high-availability options (such as Automated Availability Manager for heterogeneous clusters in SAN or NAS environments) and specialized solutions for vertical applications. Legato's Celestra Power software provides serverless, LAN-free backup under the management of NetWorker software. The company's answer to the SRM piece of the SAN management puzzle is the GEMS Storage Resource Manager suite.

Veritas Software

Over the past year, Veritas made several acquisitions relating to SAM and application optimization (e.g., Precise Software, Jareva, and NTP) and may have other acquisitions in sight.

The most recent version of Veritas' core SAM product is SANPoint Control 3.5.1. This platform has a variety of new features and supports the evolving strategy of moving from simple SRM to SAM to—eventually—fully automated SAM. Supporting this objective is Veritas' venerable Adaptive Storage Architecture (ASA) foundation suite (which includes products such as the Veritas File System and Volume Manager) along with ServPoint (NAS and SAN versions) and Storage Reporter. These components will be augmented by a new product later this year, called Service Manager, to create the first iteration of automated SAM, which Veritas refers to internally as "Global Operations Management."

Veritas has also been one of the leaders in bringing the CIM/WBEM management model to enterprise storage. The company was instrumental in getting the "Bluefin" specification adopted by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and is supporting the SMI-S standard.

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


SMI-S to provide management standard

The storage industry loves acronyms and buzzwords, especially when they can be combined to create both promise and confusion. Such is the case with management standards such as CIM/WBEM and SMI-S.

The hubbub around these terms reached a pinnacle over the past several months as draft standards, plugfests, and vendors jockeying for position reached a fever pitch (thanks, in part, to last month's Storage Networking World show). Although virtually all storage vendors have vowed to support the emerging standards, few end users understand what it will means for them. That should come as no surprise because for the most part the current focus of the standards efforts is to make it easier for vendors to support each others' technologies without having to go through painstaking qualification cycles as new versions of software or hardware platforms are released.

The good news is that vendors have finally realized that end users live in a heterogeneous world and that software and hardware have to be interoperable.

The Storage Networking Industry Association's "Bluefin" specification has been incorporated into a draft specification called the SNIA Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) Version 1.0. This first specification is limited to relatively basic device monitoring, reporting, and management.

The Version 1.1 specification is currently in development and will support "active management functions" in fabric and array environments—such as volume management, LUN masking, and zoning—under one common management console. With the 1.1 release, the benefits of SMI-S to end users will become more apparent—assuming that most software tools and hardware systems are upgraded to SMI-S compliance.

Future versions of the SMI-S standard will allow vendor APIs to be "expressed" to other devices across a fabric. Beyond this, there are numerous working groups developing more functions at the application, performance management, provisioning, and backup/copy services levels, with promises of enhancements on a regular basis over the next several years.

For more information about storage management standards and SMI-S, look for the SNIA on Storage column in the June issue of InfoStor.


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