Any gains in storage management have been hard won but slow in coming

May 17, 2006

3 Min Read
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When it comes to managing storage, it's tough (and tempting) to generalize.

One could say, for instance, that in managing multi-vendor SANs there's been little or no dramatic progress in years. On the other hand, individual vendors are doing fine managing their own wares.

Let's start at the top. Despite honest effort and much lip service, there aren't any widespread standards for multi-vendor storage resource management (SRM), and it seems likely there never will be.

"The situation is fractured... very disappointing, actually," says Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group consultancy.

In his view, while HP's purchase of AppIQ heralded some progress in heterogeneous storage management, IBM's subsequent disaffection and founding of its own group, along with EMC's clear lack of interest, has stalled any vision of centralized, cross-product storage management. (See HP Sticks to SRM Guns and Aperi Appears Amid Questions.)Byte and Switch guest columnist Jon William Toigo describes the situation in his latest column:

  • Storage techs working behind closed doors have done their darndest to deliver a storage management paradigm that could work across heterogeneous infrastructure. Along the way, however, they... have been forced to dumb down the whole effort of uniform cross-platform management to avoid goring the sacred cows of the big iron vendors. (See Remaining Relevant for more.)

History has proven that multi-vendor management at least the kind that could be easily built into storage products and accessible to end users – is doomed to resistance from big suppliers. After years of hoping for an overarching management interface, for instance, users of corporate IP networks are faced with the same handful of management systems, plus tons of "point products." (Those of you old enough to recall CMIS/CMIP, DMTF, CORBA, WBEM, and other long-lost terms will know what I mean.)

Vendors simply don't want to make it easy for competitors to manage their wares. The issue is deeper than giving up a bit of software revenue. After all, management has traditionally been a tiny portion of the profits for any vendor. But management equals control, and if one concedes it to others – worse, one's market rivals – what happens to delivering an inside track on integration and services to customers?

At the same time, suppliers are notorious for starting specs projects as a marketing strategy. Everyone plays along for the free PR before things simply evaporate. By that time, the effort's been largely forgotten, so there's no one to blame – except maybe the cynics themselves, who shoulder their share of vendor criticism for exposing the travesty. (See Standard Response, Strange Fascination With Aperi, and Aperi's Seeds of Revolution.)

There's little question that when it comes to managing storage, the most effective products are those offered by hardware vendors for their own wares or those provided by third-party software vendors. What's more, some of the more interesting offerings are the result of unique partnerships and specially devised alliances. Today's deal between Network Appliance and Symantec is just the latest example. (See NetApp Brands Symantec SRM.)Bottom line? Comprehensive, heterogeneous management of storage devices is still missing in action, and there's little indication it will show up anytime soon.

— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Symantec Corp.

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