Directory-Managed Storage Products Heat Up

Those hoping to manage storage networks from the same console they use to manage desktops, servers and printers will get their wish -- eventually.

Several vendors, including Peerless Systems and Gadzoox Networks, are indeed readying products that let management take place from network operating system tools that are directory-enabled. Peerless and Gadzoox have folded Novell Directory Services (NDS) into network-attached storage (NAS) devices, CD-ROM towers and Fibre Channel switches to improve device and policy management, security, configuration, asset control, performance and fault isolation. The companies will incorporate Microsoft Corp.'s Active Directory when it is available.

Crossroads Systems and SanCastle Technologies are also working with Microsoft and Novell to incorporate directory management into their routers and switches.

However, analysts say these attempts to ease storage management won't garner much customer support because corporate decision-makers are reluctant to spend money on storage management applications. And most SAN and NAS vendors are trying to reinvent network and systems management software that could easily be adapted to the needs of storage.

"The storage vendors don't see it as being important to them because, for the most part, there is no demand from customers," says Dave Hill, an analyst with Aberdeen Group in Boston.

Robert Gray, an analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC) in Framingham, Massachusetts, agrees that network executives have bigger fish to fry.

"The last stuff CIOs look at is what is happening on file systems, which is where network-attached storage appliances are," Gray says. "Directory management of storage is coming, but it's not the area most senior IT managers are focusing on right now."

CIOs will soon realize the importance of their data assets and the problem of managing them without additional staff, Gray says. They'll understand that directory enabled management saves time and money because all network resources can be administered from one interface.

One Windows NT user agrees with that assessment.

"Any software that works with Active Directory is going to be of more value to us than software that has its own proprietary device management scheme," says Chuck Yoke, manager of technology architecture at mutual fund company Janus in Denver. "The last thing we want is two different packages to work with."

A recent study from IDC showed that organizations using NDS found typical gains of 20 percent to 30 percent in operational efficiency and averaged a 33 percent reduction in staff needed to manage servers, desktops and applications. Experts say these gains could easily be extended to storage devices managed from a directory console.

Rick Villars, an analyst with IDC, says it is amazing to him that the storage-area network industry is trying to recreate all the things network vendors have already gone through. "It sounds as if we are back in the early days of intelligent hubs and routers," Villars says. "It is absolutely critical that storage vendors link into the directory standards, such as Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, that are developing for the Internet."

Peerless and Gadzoox use LDAP to join devices to NDS.

Peerless, a vendor of embedded network software, extended a directory agent commonly used in printers and CD-ROM drives that lets vendors add directory manageability to network-attached storage.

Peerless will also support the Netscape Directory next year, as well as extend its technology to Internet infrastructure devices, such as Web caching appliances.

Gadzoox also ships a Java applet that manages configuration, diagnostics and partitioning in its Capellix 3000 Fibre Channel switch. The applet plugs into Novell's directory management utility, ConsoleOne.

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More about Aberdeen GroupCrossroads SystemsGadzoox NetworksIDC AustraliaMicrosoftNDSNovellPeerless SystemsSANcastle TechnologiesStorage Networks

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