Storage vendors need network smarts

We have a question from reader Siva who asks whether SMARTS' products come under the NCCM (network configuration and change management) umbrella.

Siva writes: "I think in the future other storage companies will try to acquire NCCM tools and extend their use. Please write to me your opinion on this."

Siva obviously has a good understanding of what data centers are going to have to do in the coming years to keep their technologies competitive. This is a fine question, and raises some interesting points.

First, the issue of definition.

SMARTS and any number of other companies play in a very ill defined market segment. They try to cover an enormous amount of territory, squeezing within their bounds almost anything that has to do with monitoring, analyzing and managing network elements and events. As a result, NCCM is one description, but that competes for mind share with Network Configuration Management (NCM) and Event Automation and Real-time Network Systems Management (no easy acronym for that one!).

Each of these terms is of course somewhat different in its scope from the others, but practically speaking, the areas have significant overlap. Because the definitions intermix and become something of a hodgepodge, it is quite difficult for anyone trying to understand the marketplace to determine its size and direction. Suffice it to say that, like a great twentieth century philosopher once said about the universe, it is really, really big.

And perhaps, also like the universe, it may be getting bigger still. At any rate, when EMC announced the SMARTS acquisition it pegged the market at $1.8 billion - but that number was an amalgam of data from IDC, Gartner and its own bet guesses.

Whatever the definition however, and however we ultimately define the market, my correspondent is absolutely right - storage companies will indeed have to look beyond their traditional areas of competency if they are to manage networked storage proactively.

For many storage vendors, a middleware linkage between storage management and network management packages will be the perfect answer - after all, why should storage vendors invest in an area of technology so far beyond their area of core competency? Partnering relationships that allow independent business entities to do what each does best have a long history of success in the marketplace.

Companies such as Alcatel, Cisco and Nortel - major players when it comes to communications networking - each have their own network management systems. We should fully expect them to make sure their specific management systems interface with storage management software so that more of the interactions within the system become more apparent.

Some storage vendors however, will want to bring networking expertise within their own walls. Storage companies will want to bring in-house the intellectual property that looks beyond storage because they feel this will enhance their understanding of the entirety of the IT system - storage, networking, servers and security. As far as the enterprise is concerned, the days in which storage management software can stand alone are passing into history.

Many smaller companies are out there, and some would be tickled pink to be acquired. Enterprise IT environments are getting increasingly complex and management tools will have to analyze more of the overall system in order to be more proactive. As a result, look for more linkage between the storage vendors and vendors that are network-savvy.

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