Start-up joins SRM software ranks

By Lisa Coleman

Austin, TX-based Deepfile is adding a new twist to stand-alone storage resource management (SRM) products by offering automated SRM functionality built into a hardware appliance that supports CIFS and NFS. Launched in 2001, the start-up recently began shipments of its Auditor appliance and Enforcer software.

Unlike other SRM vendors, Deepfile focuses on the file system as an application and does not manage a storage area network (SAN) and its applications, according to company officials.

"It's file-based SRM on speed that also does some hierarchical storage management and data migration," says Jamie Gruener, a senior analyst with The Yankee Group consulting firm.

Deepfile's Auditor appliance finds files that violate IT storage policies and reports which files are in violation. Based on the reports, administrators can use Enforcer software to take actions, such as deleting old files, to comply with policies.
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"Our focus is on under-managed, user-created files," says Jeff Erramouspe, CEO at Deepfile. "A lot of SRM products manage things on the SAN and deal with application-level issues, but they're not focused on the file system as an application. The file system is an application, and we address how file systems interact with storage."

Another potential differentiator between Deepfile's appliance and traditional SRM products is its hardware-based SRM functionality. Traditional SRM software typically requires loading agents onto each server in the network to run reports, implement quotas, and manage storage by monitoring capacity and performance while running policy-based automation and quota management. The Auditor appliance does not use agents to perform SRM; instead, it "walks" through file systems to collect metadata. The appliance uses basic file commands to open files and collect metadata.

The Auditor appliance collects standard metadata from all files on most types of servers and can collect more than 20 types of file metadata, including file type, owner, size, date of last access, pathname, etc. Today, most SRM software products collect between four and seven parameters, according to Gruener.

Auditor also calculates a distinctive signature—a 16+ character identification—for each file by opening its contents to compile the ID, which allows the device to compare files and automatically identify duplicate files. The information is then compiled into a directory digest via a built-in database. From the database, standard reports can be run for basic file information such as file distribution by age, size, type, etc.

By using a Web-based metadata filter, users can feed custom reports and export data into any application that accepts CSV data, such as Microsoft Excel.

Deepfile Enforcer is add-on software for the Auditor appliance that creates filtered file sets and then applies rules to initiate specific actions on the files. For example, MP3 files can be found and deleted automatically. The software also has built-in actions such as delete, copy, move, compress, encrypt, and notify.

"There are not a lot of vendors doing all these elements. There are SRM vendors doing capacity management, but the automation element integrated with Deepfile is fairly unique today," says Gruener.

Enforcer is in beta at two customers: Polycom is using the appliance for managing engineering documents and technical specifications, while Vignette is using it in a hierarchical storage management strategy to optimize capacity.

One potential drawback with this SRM approach is that the appliance is dependent on network speed as well as the speed of the target disk subsystem that the product is reading. However, the network load is relatively small, and there may be 3% to 4% additional overhead on the network, according to a recent test performed by a potential Deepfile partner. The tests indicated that there were no problems with network response time and bandwidth, according to Erramouspe.

"Anytime you're doing cross-network management you're going to have a network overhead issue," says Gruener.

The Auditor appliance's speed is about 50GB per hour, depending on average file size and based on a typical 100Mbps LAN with network-attached storage (NAS).

Pricing is based on subscription models. A one-year subscription for Auditor and Enforcer starts at $10,000 for 2TB and $25,000 for 2TB, respectively.

In other SRM news, IBM recently introduced Tivoli SRM Express, a desktop version of its original SRM server product. Priced at $100, SRM Express offers the same functionality as the server version; however, it does not include subsystem and NAS support.

In addition, IBM, which acquired SRM start-up TrelliSoft last year, is introducing provisioning capabilities into its SRM software. The first phase of the provisioning will include file system extension and LUN provisioning. The software will automatically extend the file system according to thresholds set by users and can automate LUN provisioning.

This month, IBM also plans to feed SRM data into the Tivoli data warehouse, enabling users to see storage data along with other system management data. The company will also integrate SRM with Tivoli Enterprise Console, which provides rules-based management for server events.

Last month, InterSAN introduced its Pathline 2.5 software, a storage area management (SAM) product with enhanced SRM capabilities.

Pathline 2.5 automates provisioning of storage to applications, inventory management, and SAN device spreadsheet management; centralizes management and reporting of distributed devices; and automates monitors and reports on allocated and utilized capacity. In addition, the software automatically identifies applications that may be impacted by device degradation or outages.

Pathline also provides storage management functions such as policy compliance auditing for identifying device paths and incomplete paths, and automates path reconfiguration for tasks such as installing new host bus adapters.

This article was originally published on April 01, 2003