Management Musings

Management Musings Integrated SAN management? May be asking too much

May 8, 2004

3 Min Read
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Is integrated SAN management an unrealistic goal?

That question was raised by a recent panel discussion, in which four SAN managers said better management of storage networks was their priority, not fancy features like virtualization.

Consider the words of administrator Abdul Marani of Coca-Cola: We use McData SANavigator to manage our SAN and IBM Tivoli software to manage storage. I wanted to use an integrated tool but couldn’t find one.” [Emphasis added]

There's no lack of SAN management software. Plenty of suppliers offer backup, replication, and other applications. The trouble is, these packages are separate from programs that monitor storage networking gear, and more software's needed to configure the SAN to fit user needs – not to mention, to make it secure.

Can this change?There are signs that integrated solutions are taking priority with SAN software vendors. Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) is integrating its i3 application performance management software with its Storage Foundation, Cluster Server, and Volume Manager software (see Veritas Upgrades Suite). IBM also has unveiled a grand scheme to wed virtualization in storage and computers with management software (see IBM Revs Virtualization Engine). AppIQ Inc. has announced the addition of provisioning to its storage resource management (SRM) software (see AppIQ Tackles Provisioning).

All this is progress. For big companies like Veritas and IBM, the strategy to integrate SAN management with other IT management functions is crucial to future success, says Mike Karp, senior analyst at consultancy Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). "IT responsibilities fall into three general areas: storage, network, and services. You can't be comprehensive unless you do all three."

Smaller players like AppIQ benefit from OEM deals with big players, according to analyst Jamie Gruener of Yankee Group: "[AppIQ has] taken a lot of pain out of device and SAN management. And it's extremely significant that Sun Microsystems and Hitachi Data Systems are actively using their solution as part of their portfolios."

These developments and others show it's not unrealistic to expect better integration of SAN management wares. Vendors are working on it. What's more, standards may come into play, such as the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) recently blessed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) (see Playing Nice, the Standards Way). "Everybody has subscribed to it. Even EMC has realized its importance," Karp notes.

Indeed, a recent interview with EMC director of technology analysis Ken Steinhardt reveals a strong party line in favor of SNIA's new specs (see EMC Warms to All).Still, it may be unrealistic to expect too much of SAN management integration. The vendors, including those mentioned in this article, are taking their time getting the pieces in place. And as for standards, those have their limitations.

A lesson emerges from the history of corporate computing in the 1990s, when the use of networking made users clamor for better management tools based on IP. It was slow going. Standards were called for, and forums convened. Vendors paid lip service to standardized interfaces – but delivered a plethora of virtually proprietary products, many of which were much more limited than vendors let on in their brochures. After numerous shakeouts, the market evolved to accommodate a small group of integrated "frameworks" capable of running partner products and many "point products."

What's more, by the time these solutions played out, the problems of corporate net management had shifted, and new challenges emerged. The goal had not been reached, but the game had changed.

None of this means integrated SAN management isn't a worthy objective. If users keep the pressure up, vendors will be forced to continue to pursue integration, and that improves the outlook overall. But a world in which one platform runs all SAN management, or more than a few key parts of it, is probably not in the cards. Better to expect to simplify, not solve, the problem.

— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch0

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