In Search of Management SANdards

BOSTON (06/12/2000) - Assuming you can get a storage-area network up and running, the next problem is managing your SAN.

You not only need to manage storage over the SAN, which means managing backup and restore, disaster recovery, data movement and data sharing. You also need to administer the SAN infrastructure itself, including device management and resource management, despite the lack of industry standards.

EMC Corp., Legato Systems Inc., Tivoli Systems Inc. and Veritas Software Corp. offer storage management targeted at SANs. All have bulked up by making major acquisitions during the last few years. EMC acquired Data General Corp. and its Clariion storage division along with some smaller storage software companies.

Veritas bought Seagate Software Inc. Legato countered by acquiring Vinca, Intelliguard and several smaller companies. Tivoli acquired a division of Mercury Systems to obtain the SANergy data-sharing system.

While supplying point solutions such as backup, data movement and clustering over a SAN, the four companies have also developed more comprehensive strategies that feature integrated suites of products.

Paul Nicholson, who runs the prepress operation at Showtime Networks, has been using SANergy from Tivoli. Nicholson's studio produces outdoor advertisements which appear on billboards, phone booths and bus shelters as well as magazine pages, newspapers and posters.

Nicholson's graphic artists use Macintosh workstations, which are connected to a Clariion Storage array (containing 350G bytes of storage) via a Vixel Fibre Channel switch and a Gadzoox Fibre Channel hub. A Windows NT server on the SAN runs the SANergy software.

Prior to the introduction of SANergy, Nicholson says, his artists were spending too much time on tasks not directly involved with their design work. "We found that people were spending about 50 percent to 60 percent of their time doing disk access functions like opening files, saving files, printing files and copying files. The actual work being done was a very small part of their day," he says.

Every day, Nicholson's department deals with a huge amount of data in the form of 1- to 2-G byte files. These files have to be moved from one artist to another in the course of a day's work. Prior to the SANergy deployment, these large files had to be copied over the messaging network - a time-consuming procedure that reduced productivity. At the same time, this traffic degraded the performance of the network. With SANergy and fiber-optic cabling that was already in the building, Nicholson has reduced the time it took to move files from 30 minutes to a few seconds.

By using a SAN, Nicholson has been able to reduce costs even though his workload has increased by 300 percent in the last year. Nicholson says SANergy was well worth the investment of $150,000.The system paid for itself in less than six months because of the increase in productivity, he says.

Managing the infrastructure

In addition to management over the SAN, the management of the SAN infrastructure is also important. According to Carolyn DiCenzo, a senior analyst with Dataquest, the major vendors are Computer Associates International Inc., EMC, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Vixel.

DiCenzo says all the vendors offer similar functionality. "Primarily, they are management products that feature topology mapping with some sort of alerting mechanism that is activated when a device has a problem, and they usually drill down into the devices own management tool," she says.

The only problem with these SAN management solutions is they are not based on industry standards. A case in point is CA. Peter Malcolm, director of SAN products at CA, says CA could not wait for the relevant organizations to create an appropriate management standard. "We're very happy to adopt standards as they emerge, but we are not going to wait for standards bodies to deliver customer solutions when our customers are screaming at us for them," he says.

As a result, CA provided an extension to its Unicenter TNG systems management platform so its customers could manage their SANs from the same console as their messaging networks and systems.

The management products offered by CA, EMC, HP and Vixel go beyond other management products in offering multivendor capability. For example, SAN device vendors Ancor, Brocade, Chapparal, Crossroads and Gadzoox have their own software products, but they provide management only for their own devices.

To prevent this bifurcation of management software, an industry group called the Fibre Channel Alliance is working with the Storage Networking Industry Association to develop a SAN management information base, which the vendors have pledged to adopt.

The standard is in the final phases of being formulated and submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force for ratification.

Once it is ratified, adopted and implemented by vendors, any interoperability issues that now exist will be eliminated.

The SAN will have overcome another major hurdle.

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