Start-ups tackle automated storage management

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 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.

Start-ups ProvisionSoft and StorScape recently unveiled software that provides both automation of storage management functions and optimization of storage resources to improve IT personnel productivity. Similar products have been introduced this summer by vendors such as CreekPath Systems and Invio Software (see "Policy-based automation moves forward," Info Stor, August 2002, p. 8). And most of the larger storage management software vendors are delivering, or developing, automated policy-based tools.

ProvisionSoft, in Andover, MA, last month began shipping its DynamicIT software, which allows users to automatically provision storage and server resources and do automatic resource discovery. The software can also be configured to run in "push-button mode," whereby the software prompts administrators and asks for permission to perform these functions.

DynamicIT 1.0 uses "intelligent engines" that sit on top of existing 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 the software's predictive features, it also provides differentiated levels of service for groups or departments, a function that some competitive products do not have, claims Joe Maloney, president and CEO of ProvisionSoft. For example, 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.

StorScape embraces CIM

Boxborough, MA-based StorScape is expected to release policy-based storage management software next month. The company is a joint venture between Dublin, Ireland-based Eurologic Systems and Hermes SoftLab, a software company based in Slovenia.

StorScape's policy-based automation framework will include three products. All are based on the Common Information Model (CIM), which is an effort by hardware and software vendors to standardize interfaces between storage devices and management software. StorScape's software is one of the first CIM-compliant suites.

"CIM has the potential to simplify storage management for end users because it brings many different vendors to common standards," says Mark Urdahl, president and CEO of StorScape.

The software lets administrators link storage infrastructure applications to business applications for automated administration. The software has the look and feel of an SRM tool, says Urdahl, but its systems management capability goes beyond SRM.

StorScape's first product is the Local Storage Manager (LSM)-a utility for optimizing storage resources for one server. Users can establish pre-set thresholds for conditions that require action. LSM allows you to automatically or semi-automatically delete files, partition storage, add capacity, compress files, and back up data.

The next product in the suite is the Enterprise Storage Manager, which includes a Domain Manager that allows administrators to perform the same tasks as the LSM, but in groups. The Domain Manager aggregates LSMs into a common repository, which allows users to correlate disparate physical resources, storage services, and business applications.

The third product is the Enterprise Storage Manager Professional Services Edition, which system integrators, resellers, and storage consultants can deploy to analyze network environments.

What do you want to automate?

Analysts urge caution when you are 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.

This article was originally published on September 01, 2002