Data Centers

New solutions for streamlining storage management

IT managers are looking for better infrastructure management tools and a tighter integration of storage with all of the other enterprise components--applications, networking, and servers. Responding to this call, some of the biggest players are offering solutions that promise tighter control over IT operations.

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With the advent of storage arrays from a multitude of vendors, storage management has started to become a serious issue for many CIOs. With each new type of solution comes the need for supplementary training and the addition of more skill sets to the storage support group. Obviously, this can quickly become a problem, particularly as turnover occurs and new people need to be hired.

Some vendors have taken notice of this problem and are working on solutions to address the growing need for infrastructure management software that spans the enterprise from business applications, the network, and servers to storage management. In particular, IBM and Sun Microsystems are two vendors that have taken steps to do just this. IBM, for example, is currently working on porting its SAN management software (SAN Volume Controller, or SVC) to its BladeCenter server line. Sun is going the opposite direction by extending its Solaris management software to its StorEdge Enterprise Storage Manager. The end goal: fewer management points. The idea is simply that the fewer the number of management points, the easier it is to manage the infrastructure.

Other vendors are not lost in the shuffle, though. In March, 2005, Hewlett-Packard  releases HP Storage Essentials, which integrates with Insight Manager, HP's across-the-board server management solution. HP even claims that it will eventually have the ability to manage its own storage plus storage from other vendors, including EMC and Hitachi. This is all a part of HP's so-called "Adaptive Enterprise" strategy, and is designed to help control the wild storage growth experienced by many enterprises.

Beyond companies trying to sell their own wares, some organizations have created groups specifically designed to help drive companies to improve the storage management burden. Case in point: the SNIA SMI (short for the Storage Networking Industry Association's Storage Management Initiative). In a poll by SNIA in September of 2003, fully 54% of respondents indicated that they needed improved storage management tools while 35% indicated that they needed better management interoperability. In fact, these were the top two issues cited by respondents. With the tools currently under creation by different vendors, it appears as if they are, in fact, responding directly to these needs.

And all this is just from the big players in the game. Smaller players, such as iSCSI upstarts LeftHand and EqualLogic, have developed very good software just waiting to be picked up in an OEM arrangement with other hardware vendors. Of course, at present, their solutions manage only their own devices, but if licensing arrangements expand, the storage management situation could improve even with these relatively new arrivals to the storage market.

Overall, storage management is just one part of the infrastructure management puzzle. Slowly, but surely, vendors are realizing that companies don't want dozens of different management products and are gradually retooling their software offerings to match.

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