Policy-based automation moves forward

By Lisa Coleman

More than a dozen companies-start-ups as well as traditional software vendors-are designing or delivering automated policy-based storage management software to centrally manage storage networks from the application down to LUN masking and RAID management. However, not all the companies provide end-to-end management.

This summer, two companies announced availability of automated policy-based software products. CreekPath Systems, formerly a storage service provider (SSP), began shipping its Application Intelligent Management (AIM) suite. Also, Invio Software, founded by three former Legato Systems employees, announced availability of its Storage Practice Manager, Active Practices, and Storage Practice Foundry products.

CreekPath's AIM suite is a compilation of four products that integrate policy-based management and automatic storage provisioning. The suite also includes 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 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 specific applications.

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. The modules also support Brocade and McData switches. CreekPath will offer support for InRange's switches early next year, as well as support for network-attached storage (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 similar modules for applications such as Exchange and SAP.

The AIM suite is priced according to the number of ports in the storage area network (SAN), but Walker declined to provide specifics. He says that EMC's AutoIS, as well as software from vendors such as BMC and Veritas, are CreekPath's primary competitors.

Invio Software targets storage automation

Invio's three software products are specifically designed for storage automation. Its Storage Practice Manager automates policies, user activities, system processes, and workflows. Within that product, a Web-based GUI allows administrators to control the automation. The Active Practices software comprises storage management modules such as split-mirror backup for Oracle, capacity planning by application, network configuration capture, DAS-to-SAN migration, and provisioning.

The final piece of Invio's automation software is the Storage Practice Foundry, a development environment to create new storage modules for specific software and hardware components.

Invio's software is priced from $75,000 for the application and support for application provisioning, data management, or performance tuning. The price scales upward based on the size of the SAN, NAS, or DAS environment.

Last month, Invio announced that it will ship SAN automation solutions that leverage Brocade Fabric Access API 2.0.

"The key to unlocking the value proposition of centralization was not the ability to know what was going on, which was important, but the ability to complement or improve the productivity of people when they set out to do operational activities," says Chris Hyrne, Invio's vice president of marketing.

Invio differentiates itself from other vendors delivering automated policy-based software by automating more than just the storage provisioning process and by operating independent of any other tools, says Hyrne.

The company does not consider BMC, Computer Associates, or EMC, for example, to be competitors, according to Hyrne. "We want to complement what those vendors do," he says. "We view them as potential partners, where we can define a process in the network storage environment and incorporate what they do in that workflow, as opposed to replacing it," says Hyrne.

According to Dennis Martin, an analyst with The Evaluator Group, all of the major storage management 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 management software will be in high demand, especially because it can help save a lot of time. 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."

This article was originally published on August 01, 2002