Once in awhile we run across a company that is doing something for data center administrators that is orthogonal to what everyone else is doing. One example is Virtual Instruments. A spin-off of Finisar in 2008, Virtual Instruments is an exciting new company that has taken existing pieces of very sophisticated technology, added some more sophisticated technology, and redefined monitoring solutions for SANs in virtual operating environments.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment is expensive. 3.0 tesla scanners cost a hospital over $2 million dollars - which is why patients are charged about $3,500 for a single procedure. But if you're really, really sick, MRIs produce high quality images of the inside of your body that help a physician quickly diagnose and correctly treat your medical condition.
Now imagine if there were MRIs with hardware so affordable and software so friendly that we could all have one in our home. Instead of using the procedure only after a doctor was unable to diagnose our condition, we would step into our home MRI each morning for a preventative look deep into our internal organs. We would be so much healthier. Fitness fanatics would know if they are maintaining peak performance. And those of us that are less fit would receive alerts long before an issue becomes a serious problem.
Protocol analyzers are MRIs for a network. When a data center network is really, really sick, specially trained engineers are brought in to use the analyzers to monitor packet traffic and quickly pinpoint the root cause of a problem. A few of the largest data centers have their own analyzers, staff and home-grown processes for collecting additional information, setting acceptable thresholds, and firing off alerts to identify issues before the health of their SAN fails. But most data centers can't justify the capital expense and specialized skills needed to deploy analyzers. So they pad the capacity of their networks to accommodate potential overload or failure.