SRM Tools Tackle Virtualization

Storage resource management gets linked up with virtualization of servers and storage

February 13, 2008

5 Min Read
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Announcements from Akorri and Tek-Tools this week mark a growing unity between virtualization and storage resource management (SRM).

On Monday, Akorri announced an enhanced version of its BalancePoint software designed to work closely with virtualized storage as well as servers.

BalancePoint, which does not require any agents for monitored systems, gauges application performance of servers and storage from the end-user standpoint -- specifically via response time metrics. This monitoring is accompanied by analysis tools to help optimize data center setups, identify bottlenecks, and plan for future capacity and performance. The software has contained VMware server virtualization views since May 2007.

With this release, BalancePoint includes virtualized storage from IBM's SAN Virtual Controller and HDS's Universal Storage Platform V in its scope.

Akorri says it will add virtual storage devices from Incipient, EqualLogic, and 3PAR to its software within the next two months.Akorri has also changed its software to fit more closely into VMware. Previously, BalancePoint was bundled with a rackmountable hardware appliance. Now, BalancePoint is optionally offered as a virtual appliance in VMware ESX Server 3.x environments.

Akorri has also equipped BalancePoint with a range of new features that take advantage of VMware virtualization. The package offers a new metric called the GuidePoint Performance Index (PI), a calculated value reflecting how well servers and storage are matched up with underlying systems, including virtual servers and storage.

Pricing for BalancePoint 2.2 starts at about $12,500 for 5 Tbytes of storage or below. Systems are sold individually up to 30 Tbytes (starting at about $75,000). Beyond that, enterprise pricing per Tbyte applies.

At least one analyst thinks Akorri is unique so far among SRM vendors. "[Akorri is] grouped into the ever-expanding SRM domain, but they don't really have a lot of direct competition due to their performance focus with cross-domain visibility," says analyst Bob Laliberte of the Enterprise Strategy Group.

Laliberte thinks the link to virtual storage supported in this release shouldn't be underestimated. "Our research shows that among current server virtualization users, 24 percent report they have already deployed a storage virtualization solution in conjunction with their virtual server environment... 57 percent will have or plan to deploy storage virtualization services in the next two years." Given those stats, a product that can offer intelligence about how well virtual and physical data center elements are delivering throughput to end users could prove valuable, in his view.On the downside, Akorri does not support NAS, a lack that execs say will be addressed later in 2008.

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SRM vendor Tek-Tools announced a new VMware software module for its Profiler series, which is a Web-based set of apps that monitor and report on performance and capacity for all kinds of storage environments, including NAS, SAN, and DAS.

The addition of Profiler for VMware extends the performance reporting to ESX servers. The software is sold as an agentless add-on to the vendor's Profiler suite, which is sold as a single package with licensing options for various brands of disk arrays, as well as for EMC Legato and Microsoft Exchange.

Unlike Akorri, Tek-Tools's approach is based on quantitative metrics that help determine performance and capacity of data center storage kit. Response time views aren't on the cards. "All our metrics are from the back end," states director of marketing Stephen Harding.This is Tek-Tools's first support for virtualized environments, but execs say there are plans to move into virtualized storage environments like IBM's SVC during the second or third quarter of this year.

At least one early adopter finds the addition of VMware to the Profiler suite to be a help. "We're using the beta and planning a full rollout," says Ed Delgado, storage administrator at RiskMetrics, a New York-based financial risk analysis firm. He has used Profiler to centralize his view of data center storage devices and backup software across six data centers for the last seven months.

For the last two months, Delgado has also used Profiler to scope out activity on the firm's ESX servers. Running on Dell physical platforms, each ESX server holds up to 20 virtual machines in Delgado's network. "We needed to centralize the way we look at all environments," he says. "We can get that now for about $50 per virtual machine. We think that's a great price.

Delgado says he looked at EMC's ControlCenter software but found the cost "astronomical." The version he saw was also limited in terms of what he could view throughout the data center, he says.

Tek-Tools charges $1,995 for the basic Profiler software. On top of that, the VMware module will cost $995 per ESX server, though volume pricing applies.ESG's Laliberte says Tek-Tools is definitely closer to the traditional model of SRM than Akorri, and would compete more closely with SRM from EMC and other storage suppliers, as well as with Symantec. That's an advantage in his view: "Because they have been around for awhile, they have really broad support for multiple vendors or even technologies (NAS and SAN)," he writes in an email to Byte and Switch. "Their introduction of support for VMware environments is very timely, as server virtualization is really taking off in all segments.

At least one other analyst, who asked not to be named, thinks the two companies may compete with others and differ widely in their individual orientations. But he thinks they are unique in offering SRM support for heterogeneous server and storage environments. "Akorri and Tek-Tools are the only ones I've seen so far," he says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Akorri

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)

  • EqualLogic Inc.

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Incipient Inc.

  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)

  • Tek-Tools Inc.

  • 3PAR Inc.

  • VMware Inc.

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