Networked storage is a boon for companies: By shifting the control point away from the server OS with a SAN (storage area network) or NAS (network area storage) model, storage management becomes less complex and less expensive.
Despite the benefits, network storage poses a challenge for efficiently managing heterogeneous environments because networked devices are often only compatible with specific architectures, or product lines.
Fortunately, some vendors are becoming more sensitive to the additional burden that incompatible management tools create. Interesting advances in that direction came recently from EMC. The company's ESN Manager provides centralized management for the EMC Enterprise Storage Network (ESN). The software enables volume access control, centralized zoning, and individualized path management for all storage devices connected to an ESN, and it can provide those services for all ESN supported hosts, from mainframes to client/server platforms.
ESN Manager supports storage devices from EMC as well as Compaq Computer, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, and StorageTek. Furthermore, it can handle fiber switches from various companies.
XIOTech takes SV (storage virtualization) to its zenith with the combination of its Magnitude SAN appliance and Magnitude REDI management software. The solution enables companies to move the data content of one drive to another logical volume on the fly, without downtime. This opens new possibilities, such as creating an ad hoc mirror copy (thereby shrinking the backup window for a database), creating remote replicas for disaster recovery, or moving sensitive data to faster disk drives.
Vicom Systems takes an open-ended approach to multivendor SAN interoperability with its SV Engine, a combination of routers and management software. Using programmable microdrivers, each SV Router can be trained to control storage devices from different vendors, and each interacts with other SV Routers on the network to create a unified view of the SAN accessible to Unix or Windows hosts.
An upcoming offering from Tricord Systems, promises seamless aggregation of multiple NAS units that appear to the server hosts (in Windows only) as a single, resilient pool of storage. The building blocks of Tricord's offering include a rack-mountable server appliance featuring a 1U form factor, 135G byte capacity, and an enticing name, Lunar Flare NAS.
Device aggregation is provided by the company's Illumina software. By applying RAID technology to Lunar Flare appliances instead of disk drives, it automatically recognizes the devices and updates the pool capacity.
As the technology evolves and vendors converge on upcoming interoperability standards, managing storage will become increasingly networkcentric. Removing storage administration chores from your burdened servers should be a welcome change because it cuts costs and complexity.
Mario Apicella (firstname.lastname@example.org) follows storage technologies for the Test Center.
EMC Corp. - www.emc.com
* ESN Manager
XIOTech Corp. - www.xiotech.com
* Magnitude REDI software
Vicom Systems Inc. - www.vicom.com
* Storage Virtualization Engine
Tricord Systems Inc. - www.tricord.com
* Illumina and Lunar Flare NAS