SRM vendors add business analytics

By Kevin Komiega

Storage resource management (SRM) tools were fairly limited in their abilities back when they hit the scene in the open systems world a few years ago. In their infancy, SRM tools were about discovery, topology mapping, and quota management. Then came automated policies and broader support for heterogeneous platforms.

Now it seems that the vendors have realized there are more important things than knowing how many switches or RAID arrays you have in your SAN, and SRM tools have begun to evolve into an entirely new species of storage software focused on business analytics and deriving real value from stored data.

The recent Storage Networking World conference was the launching pad for some of these tools, including a new flagship product from Creekpath called Acuity and two additions to Sun Microsystems' Enterprise Storage Manager portfolio—Sun StorageTek Business Analytics 5.0 and Sun StorageTek Operations Manager 4.1.

Creekpath, formerly known as an SRM vendor, says its new Acuity product is "an IT asset and service management tool."

"We are no longer a storage resource management company. We are now delivering software for business people, more so than for technical people, to enable better asset management and to help them avoid spending money in the wrong places," says Creekpath CEO Mark Davis.

Unlike traditional SRM products targeted at storage administrators for automating storage provisioning, Acuity addresses business intelligence for IT executives, capacity planners, architects, and financial managers so they can make business decisions about their storage infrastructure.

But Creekpath didn't scrap its SRM technology and start from scratch. The foundation of Acuity is the Creekpath SRM Suite. Acuity is similar to SRM software at a base level because it does topology mapping, analyzes utilization rates, and monitors data access. The twist is that the software applies analytics for high-level business managers.

Creekpath Acuity utilizes agent-less technology to perform discovery and topology mapping operations, more than 200 pre-built, configurable analytic templates, and a Configuration Management Database (CMDB), which is a single data repository that contains all relevant information about all components in a storage infrastructure.

Acuity supports storage components and vendors through both the SMI-S management standard and proprietary interfaces.

Sun is on a similar path with updates to its own SRM software in the form of including its Business Analytics 5.0 and Operations Manager 4.1 software.

Sun's software upgrades bring business analytics together with the reporting, monitoring and management capabilities of SRM. There is also an ulterior motive at play: Sun is attempting to explain its post-StorageTek merger product lines to customers.

"We want to clarify where we are going with all of these products and help people view their technology in a business context," says Dan Norton, product marketing manager for Sun's Data Management Group.

Norton says Sun StorageTek Business Analytics 5.0, formerly Storability Global Storage Manager, goes beyond traditional reporting by transforming the data it collects into actionable information that managers can use to make decisions. It allows users to view technical information in a business context and gain a broader understanding of the impact that IT decisions will have on the business as a whole.

New features in Business Analytics 5.0 include added support for Network Appliance's Data OnTap 7.0; and expanded storage reporting and support for Solaris 10, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, QLogic switches, and IBM and ADIC tape libraries. SMI-S client support for disk arrays and tape libraries has also been added to the previously certified support for SMI-S-compliant fabric and host devices.

Similarly, Operations Manager 4.1 has also been revamped to include platform support for IBM DS arrays and Sun's NAS devices. The software uses a Web-services architecture and automates routine tasks such as provisioning. Application-specific modules allow the administrator to view the data path, from the database all the way to the underlying array spindles, and examine configuration details, performance data, and dependency analysis and utilization statistics.

Monosphere is another vendor that is integrating business analytics with SRM in the form of an application called Storage Horizon. Storage Horizon uses statistical time-series analysis and free-hand planning to track storage capacity growth patterns and the dollar value and age of storage assets, and it facilitates management report preparation for financial and business application reviews.

Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, says that vendors such as Creekpath, Sun, and Monosphere now need to be able to show legitimate business value for their SRM and management applications.

"The thing that all three have in common is they are providing higher-level business views of what was typically boring, low-level infrastructure," says Duplessie. "They are also delivering mainframe-caliber tools to the open system world."

Duplessie says the use of business analytics goes hand-in-hand with traditional SRM tools to provide users with precise accounts of their business drivers, service levels, and expectations. "No one makes changes willy-nilly and everyone knows exactly what their utilization and capacity requirements are going to be," he says.

This article was originally published on April 13, 2006