Storage Left Out of CMDB Loop

Talk of 'federated IT management' doesn't always include storage, despite claims

December 16, 2006

4 Min Read
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Heard the latest in IT management architectures? If you're a storage pro, chances are the answer is "no."

Indeed, storage is an afterthought when it comes to a key IT management buzzword these days -- configuration management database (CMDB), a technology whereby numerous IT resources, including servers and applications (and supposedly storage) can be centrally managed and controlled.

CMDB is part of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) approach to data center management. (See ITIL Irritates IT Managers.) It incorporates automatic discovery of devices, systems, and applications and sets up a repository of information about them and their relationships to one another. The goal is to track IT resources and make changes as needed.

CMDB is definitely an enterprise-scale paradigm. While nearly any kind of IT management product, including those that are included with many SAN and NAS systems, can sport a CMDB, a key concept is that a group of CMDBs can be brought together into a single management interface. This is called "federated CMBD."

"CMDB is a software-centric approach to discovering, identifying, and tracking elements in data centers. It's a single source of truth, if you will," says Vick Vaishnavi, director of marketing at BladeLogic. "The notion is that if you are going with CMDB, you are trying to create different sources of truth -- about the network, about applications, about storage... Enterprise CMDBs are warehouses where all these CMDB satellites are stored."A growing roster of vendors offers CMDB packages, including BladeLogic, Intuity, Managed Objects, and OpsWare, to name just a few, and the big enterprise IT management firms are all over the issue, including BMC, CA, HP, and IBM.

Notably, CMDB was the technology behind HP's purchase of Mercury Interactive in November for $4.5 billion. (See HP Finalizes Mercury Buy.) CMDB was also the impetus behind CA's purchase of Cendura earlier this year, which subsequently led to a new CA CMDB release in September. (See CA Supports ITIL.)

Sadly, though, finding storage in all this is difficult.

While CA offers an integration capability for its CMDB, specifics are hard to nail down. And the fine print on IBM's web site about its Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database indicates support only for IBM's TotalStorage wares. There's nothing about storage in BMC's Atrium literature. Ditto HP's OpenView collateral.

BladeLogic doesn't support storage, and Vaishnavi admits it's not in the company's cards. "It's not cost-prohibitive to throw more storage capacity out there," he says. Because storage is sometimes perceived as a commodity, there's less pressure on IT to make it part of the CMDB equation.Storage vendors are reticent on the subject, with a few exceptions: EMC's purchase of nLayers last summer led to the issuance of its own CMDB product, the Smarts Application Discovery Manager. (See EMC Nets nLayers, Scopes Security and EMC Unveils ADM.) And Symantec says CMDB is part of its Data Center Foundation software.

Analysts say these rumblings herald some upcoming activity. "Most CMDB strategies are so far evolving without consideration of the storage fabric," maintains Dennis Drogseth of the Enterprise Management Associates consultancy. "EMA believes that in the coming 1- 3 years, however, this will begin to change radically, as storage technologies and the data they support become a growing requirement for CMDB inclusion, as well as a recognized resource for more effective CMDB design.

It's a nice vision. So far, though, the big players like HP and IBM haven't been able to cooperate with each other, let alone with storage vendors such as EMC. A CMDB standards effort announced in April 2006 appears to have petered out, for instance. (See Standard Response and Tech Leaders Create Fed Spec.)

Part of the problem could be laid at the doorsteps of the storage vendors themselves, who are notoriously lacking in the ability to define common storage management interfaces that would make it easier for third parties to add support.

Still, there is hope. Consider the following remark from Chris Gahagan, EMC SVP of resource management software, made at the announcement of Smarts 5.0 in September: "Our acquisition of nLayers ... was driven by our strategy to provide infrastructure management across the application, network, server, and storage domains."— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • BladeLogic Inc.

  • BMC Software Inc. (NYSE: BMC)

  • CA Inc. (NYSE: CA)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Opsware Inc.

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