Opsware Expands Storage Management

Vendor mixes views of storage, servers, and networks, but provisioning is still missing

September 19, 2007

3 Min Read
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Data center automation specialist Opsware, which was recently acquired by HP for $1.6 billion, has finally added storage to its management software, unveiling its Application Storage Automation System (ASAS) today.

Opsware got its hands on the core technology behind ASAS when it acquired storage software vendor Creekpath for about $10 million just over a year ago. "We have leveraged their storage plumbing," says Jason Rosenthal, senior vice president of the vendor's server automation products division, adding that Creekpath's code lets Opsware get a view of HBAs, switch fabrics, and storage arrays.

"We can do compliance checks across the whole application stack -- servers, network, and storage," explains the exec. "For example, 'Is my multipath load balancing in compliance with my stated best practice [and] is my replication functioning properly?'"

Rosenthal says that ASAS, which will be available at an unspecified time within the next couple of months, can 'discover' any storage device from any vendor, which can then be used to produce reports on how a given storage infrastructure is configured and used.

"The benefit of this is that IT organizations can 'charge-back' different business units based on storage consumption," he explains.Up to now, storage has typically been left out of broader IT automation schemes, but changing that could eliminate the manual configuration errors that cause the bulk of system failures.

Opsware strikes a blow in the right direction. But the supplier still has some distance to go before it can offer automated provisioning of storage systems, even though it offers that feature for servers and network devices.

"In the ASAS 1.0 release we cant do storage provisioning," admits Rosenthal, adding that this will be included in the next release of the software sometime in early 2008.

Exactly how Opsware will get its hands on storage provisioning technology remains to be seen, though HP acquired the capability when it bought AppIQ for an undisclosed fee back in 2005. This is now part of the vendor's Storage Essentials product line.

Other vendors at work on storage automation include EMC, which this week unveiled two products that track storage wares and activate automated provisioning of EMC, HP, and HDS hardware.Onaro also recently added capacity management and some provisioning features to its SANScreen product line. Characterized by at least one user as halfway toward fully automated storage, Onaro has combined scripting of storage procedures with a GUI, enabling IT managers to forecast specific requirements for different storage tiers.

Another automation vendor focusing attention on storage is BladeLogic, which partners with both Onaro and EMC. Although traditionally focused on servers, BladeLogic is planning a tighter integration of storage into its wares.

Despite the efforts of EMC, Opsware, Onaro, and BladeLogic, storage automation is nonetheless still in its relative infancy, thanks partly to reluctance on the part of some storage managers to embrace the technology for fear of losing control.

Long term, storage managers need to get out of this mentality if they want truly efficient data centers, according to Evelyn Hubbert, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. "If you can [automatically] provision storage devices, that is huge," she says, explaining that maintenance work, such as configuring hardware, typically accounts for about 80 percent of an IT manager's workload.

Then there are the cost issues associated with storage problems. "I just came back from a client in the northeast of the U.S., who had a provisioning issue on a storage device that caused an application standstill for a number of days and cost a lot of money."Priced at $25,000 for up to 250 software agents, ASAS is one of a set of data center automation products launched by Opsware today, collectively called Suite 7. These include reporting enhancements to the vendor's server automation offering and support for IPv6 and SNMPv3 on Opsware's Network Automation System product.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.

  • BladeLogic Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Forrester Research Inc.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Onaro Inc.

  • Opsware Inc.

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