Bringing Harmony to Disk Storage

FRAMINGHAM (07/03/2000) - Six months ago, Dick Boyle, vice president of The Chase Manhattan Bank's global private banking division in New York, decided to consolidate his 54 Notes and NetWare servers down to eight machines. That meant he had to make a few decisions, most notably how to distribute 3 terabytes of data so users could access it quickly and the information technology staff could administer it easily.

Boyle decided on a storage-area network (SAN) architecture, which provides access to the physical disk space on any machine from all other machines in the storage network.

But instead of buying an expensive hardware and software combination from a storage system vendor like EMC Corp. in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Boyle opted for a Fibre Channel switch from Gadzoox Networks Inc. in San Jose, with Fort Lauderdale, Floridaa-based DataCore Software Corp.'s SANsymphony Server Edition software running on a Windows NT Server.

The combination of these two products, says Boyle, provides a simple storage infrastructure that cost him only US$210,000, including hardware, and gave his staff an operations application that was well designed for the job.

"I can sleep well at night knowing I only invested $210,000 rather than $1 million," he says.

Music to Their Ears

Low cost is a key part of SANsymphony's appeal, says DataCore co-founder Ziya Aral, the company's chairman and chief technology officer.

"Like everything else in the industry, storage is going to commodity hardware," Aral says. SANsymphony is a software tool that provides most of the features and functions of proprietary disk controllers, he says. Because it works with any brand of disk storage device, it lets corporations use their existing hardware assets.

"SANsymphony is a sophisticated attempt to get around the insular nature of storage," says Dan Tanner, an analyst at Boston-based consultancy Aberdeen Group Inc. "It lets the enterprise treat all of its storage as one resource."

An IT shop, Tanner says, will find a big advantage in using SANsymphony's drag-and-drop interface to administer the network. Boyle says he agrees. "I give DataCore a lot of credit for understanding what the operations side needs to see to put it all together," Boyle says.

There was a learning curve, but Boyle says he attributes that more to his staff's need to grasp the new paradigm of virtualized storage than to any flaws with SANsymphony's user interface.

He says he praises the mapping diagrams for being clear and easy to read and for mimicking the graphics of familiar network management tools.

One other significant benefit of SANsymphony, says David Hill, an analyst at Aberdeen Group, is that the software works in heterogeneous environments.

Many times, says Hill, a SAN tool is bundled with a particular brand of storage, which usually means that it works with only one network operating system. But SANsymphony supports a number of network operating systems so that the storage devices can run on Windows NT, Windows 2000, NetWare or Unix (including Solaris, AIX, HP-UX and Linux) systems. "Most companies have a mix of Unix and NT servers, and they want to be able to mix those," he says.

Fine Tuning in Order

Kelly Overgaard, network services manager at Adaptec Inc. in Milpitas, California, says he likes the free weekends SANsymphony promises him.

Overgaard has been running a pilot project with SANsymphony since last November. He's waiting for the final release of the Network Edition, which runs on multiple machines for system fail-over capabilities, before moving forward on his SAN project. With a product like SANsymphony running in a mirror configuration, Overgaard says, his staff can add new disks and reallocate space and users while the system is running.

That means no more coming in on Saturdays - which he does about every three months to take down the storage servers and do paperwork.

One thing Overgaard says he's not happy with, however, is the price. The Network Edition lists for $14,995. A more reasonable price would be about $5,000, he says.

Note: DataCore last week announced the acquisition of Demand Technology Software in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a vendor of performance-monitoring software that has storage management expertise.

Johnson is a Computerworld contributing writer in Seattle.

Small Player, Big Market

What's in Storage?

DataCore is unusual in that it offers only the software piece of a storage-area network (SAN). Most SAN vendors supply the software, controllers and disk hardware as one package. The big storage server companies are the same ones you probably buy your workstations from - Dell Computer Corp., Compaq Computer Corp. and IBM. And there are a few companies that specialize just in storage, such as EMC Corp. and Seagate Technology Inc. in Scotts Valley, California.

EMC Corp.

Hopkinton, Mass.

www.emc.com

EMC's Enterprise Storage Network is a comprehensive package, and most prospective SANsymphony users will probably consider using it. EMC is the leader in this type of integrated storage niche, supporting multiple operating systems - Unix, Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Linux - and multiple communications technologies such as Fibre Channel, SCSI and Escon.

The company provides all the pieces: the file servers, the communications hardware and the management software. That approach can be expensive; a seven-figure sale is not at all unusual.

XIOtech Corp.

Eden Prairie, Minn.

www.xiotech.com

XIOtech is a Seagate Technology subsidiary. It builds the Magnitude SAN hardware and software systems. The hardware piece can hold up to 4.5 terabytes of data - not too difficult when disk drive sizes have zoomed up to 70GB.

Supported operating systems include Windows NT and 2000, Macintosh, NetWare, IRIX, UnixWare, HP-UX, Linux, Solaris and AIX. The software piece, REDI, includes the expected mapping and management features, along with backups, monitoring and load balancing.

Compaq Computer Corp.

Houston

www.compaq.com

This year, Compaq announced an initiative to support heterogeneous SANs. The result is a set of software management tools - just the market that DataCore plays in. These tools fall under the SANworks product umbrella and include utilities for resource management and data replication.

DataCore Software Corp.

DataCore co-founders George Teixeira and Ziya Aral claim that SANsymphony's advantage lies in its platform independenceLocation: 6261 N.W. 6th Way, No. 110, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33309Telephone: (954) 267-1620Web: www.datacoresoftware.comNiche: SAN management softwareWhy it's worth watching: Its software tool turns existing storage attached to Unix, Windows NT or NetWare servers into a SAN.

Company officers: - Ziya Aral, co-founder, chairman and chief technology officer - George S. Teixeira, co-founder, president and CEOMilestones:- 1998: Founded- May '00: Server edition released- June: Network edition releasedEmployees: 120; annual growth of 300 percent projectedBurn money: $45 million from Van Wagoner Capital Management Inc., New Enterprise Associates, OneLiberty Ventures and private investors; $40 million round under wayProducts/pricing: SANsymphony Server Edition, $7,995SANsymphony Network Edition, $14,995Customers: The Chase Manhattan Bank, Adaptec Inc.

Partners: Gadzoox Networks , Nissho Electronics Corp., Gain Systems Inc., ITIS Services LLCRed flags for IT: - Industry heavyweights, including Compaq Computer Corp. and EMC Corp., have competing offerings- Requests for data must go through the SANsymphony server, a potential bottleneck for a high-performance data sets, like transaction processing systems.

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