Managing EMC and NetApp hardware

Some readers recently asked how the storage management products of EMC and Network Appliance measure up.

Both EMC and NetApp have done some significant work in the storage management arena. Their products are forward-looking and provide excellent value to their customers, in a limited scope.

The primary shortfall is their management products are for managing THEIR storage only. In today's environment, it's not enough to have heterogeneous connectivity. Vendors who truly want to solve customer problems must also address heterogeneous management.

Over the past decade, EMC has made a huge commitment to storage management in both research and purchases, which started with its acquisition of Epoch Systems in the early 1990s. Since that acquisition, EMC has brought to market many management capabilities for managing its own storage products. Recently, EMC has hopped on the "open" bandwagon with its Automated Information Storage (Auto IS) management approach to managing storage.

EMC has done a good job of designing a storage management model. This model has at the top layer a common interface EMC calls StorageScope (kind of like a periscope, I guess). The next layer is a report generator the company calls the Workload Analyzer. The third layer down is the services layer. This is the layer where EMC provides all its monitoring and management services, such as replication management and storage array management. The fourth layer from the user is called the Open Integration Layer, where information about lower-level devices is correlated. Finally, the lowest level of the model is the interface to the devices, which EMC calls WideSky (and the Storage Networking Industry Association calls Bluefin).

Drilling down to the services layer, there are currently six basic services offered: resource availability monitoring, database tuning, storage network management, replication management, storage array management and storage array optimization. Of these six services, three are offered for storage devices other than EMC. Those are array management, database tuning, and, to a limited degree, storage network management. Also, the capabilities for non-EMC storage seem to be significantly constrained in comparison to the services offered for the EMC storage. All opportunities for further improvement.

Network Appliance has also come quite a long way in its storage management products. NetApp's Data Fabric Manager gives customers a single view into all NetApp filers on a network.

The single view allows for quicker deployment of filers, with the added advantage of deploying with consistent best practices. However, our research consistently shows that centralized management of filers in a heterogeneous environment is still a big problem.

As industry leaders, NetApp and EMC have excellent management approaches - if you only have NetApp or EMC hardware in your environment.

Many visionaries have called this the "Information Age." I put to you, we don't really have information, yet. We are just getting our arms around the "Data Age" - boy, we sure know how to digitize data and store it. We won't truly get to the Information Age until we solve these data container management issues.

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