ARM software saves time, money

By Heidi Biggar

If you're acquainted with the ARM acronym, then you know why the industry is buzzing about it and why vendors are racing to bring such products to market. Automated resource management (ARM), a term coined by the Enterprise Storage Group (ESG), is a new category of storage management software.

According to Nancy Marrone, a senior analyst with ESG, ARM software is defined by its ability to discover, monitor, and group storage resources at the file-system level; set policies; trigger internal or external actions based on user-defined events; and, most importantly, auto-provision storage capacity.

In the last three months, BMC Software (along with partner Invio), EMC, IBM Tivoli, and Veritas Software announced ARM products, joining CreekPath and Storability (see table on p. 14). And other vendors are expected to follow.

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Marrone says that, for the most part, vendors have developed these products for the distinct purpose of enabling auto-provisioning and that other features/functions are merely means to that end. "You can't auto-provision if you can't monitor and discover the arrays, or if you can't look at the file system," she explains.

But make no mistake: ARM products are typically not storage resource management (SRM) or storage network management (SNM) tools, and vice versa. While there is some overlap between these product types—and others—ARM tools have the unique ability of being able to auto-provision storage (see figure).

"The auto-provisioning feature is a clear differentiator," says Marrone. While some advanced SNM and SRM applications can trigger events based on user-defined policies, most can't assign and monitor capacity based on user-defined policies, she explains.

Similarly, most ARM tools lack many of the reporting and quota management capabilities of SRM tools, as well as many SNM attributes. But that's all right because they don't necessarily need to—not yet, anyway.

"Do we believe that ARM applications should either work with SRM applications or incorporate the features of advanced SRM applications? Yes, but for the time being they are addressing different functions but using similar technologies," says Marrone.

Two exceptions are BMC and IBM, both of which are integrating SRM and ARM into single products. BMC is integrating Patrol Storage Manager with process automation technology from Invio (a bundled solution is currently available).

Similarly, IBM last month announced IBM Tivoli Storage Resource Manager (ITSRM), the first integrated product stemming from its summer acquisition of TrelliSoft, a vendor of SRM software. Analysts say it is the first product to provide automated data management and archiving. It does so by triggering actions within Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM). Auto-provisioning is slated for early next year.

Ask any vendor about its future ARM road map, and you'll likely hear a similar story. Vendors are working to tie their various storage management pieces together, not only to ease management and lower management costs, but also to enable a variety of new capabilities. In many cases, these vendors are also combining management under a single console.

For example, EMC has linked Automated Resource Manager to SAN Manager, and similarly Fujitsu Softek plans to integrate Storage Provisioner and Storage Manager with SANView to enable a variety of automated capabilities, including automated workload balancing/path management, self-automated and self-managing storage networks, and end-to-end storage provisioning.

The upshot of all this activity, according to Marrone, is not how many product types there are or how the vendors combine the technologies, but what it all means to end users. "Users care about solving storage management problems," she says, "and provisioning storage using traditional methods is a management nightmare."

ARM tools have the potential of saving IT administrators time and money. They do so by dramatically altering the way administrators provision storage resources in direct-attached storage (DAS), network-attached storage (NAS), and/or storage area network (SAN) environments. Traditionally, the task of provisioning storage has been a manual process, involving a diverse set of skills and IT disciplines (e.g., system, database, network, and storage administrators).

By automating the process through a set of pre-determined policies, IT organizations can cut the time it takes between when a request is made and when the storage is actually provisioned from days to minutes. In addition, it can free up systems, network, database, and storage administrators for other tasks.

Ultimately, vendors believe the provisioning task will become so automated that decisions will be based on qualitative characteristics and not triggered by certain events (e.g., application x has hit its threshold). All you'd have to do is plug in new storage and classify it, and the software would take care of the rest.

For more information about automating storage processes using policies, see "Providing storage intelligence with automated policies," in this issue, and "Software vendors move toward unified management," October 2002, p. 1. q

This article was originally published on November 01, 2002