EMC, IBM tout advanced storage software

Network World (US)

EMC Corp. and IBM Corp. this week introduced management software that the companies say lets users more easily deploy, reconfigure and optimize utilization of storage-area networks.

EMC announced a new release of PowerPath software that lets disparate physical storage be grouped into logical volumes and managed from a central location. Meanwhile, IBM rolled out the TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller, a crucial part of its on-demand computing strategy. The software runs on IBM servers and gives users a logical view of physical SAN resources.

Volume managers or virtualization products take the physical disks from disparate arrays and orient them logically so users can manage them better. When disks are virtualized, their volumes can be expanded, added or moved with user-defined policies. In unvirtualized environments, every time capacity for an application is moved or added, users need to rejigger the attachments between the application servers and the data on storage arrays.

“Virtualization is important if you want to get the benefits of centralized storage,” says Ken Walters, senior director of enterprise platforms for broadcasting company PBS Information Technology in Alexandria, Va. “Virtualization increases your storage-efficiency ratio dramatically. If you don’t increase your efficiency ratio, how then do you justify your capital outlay for a SAN?”

Because storage can be managed from a single view and is no longer dependent on the location or size of storage arrays and servers to which they attach, observers say volume management and virtualization can save companies money and increase their efficiency.

“Customers can ease the overall management of storage arrays by virtualizing them,” says Tony Prigmore, senior analyst with Enterprise Storage Group.

Volume management software traditionally has resided on the host computer. But because of the capability of intelligent switches from vendors such as Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and start-up Sanera Systems Inc., volume management software also can reside in the network, where analysts say deployment can be less costly.

“If you take volume management off the host and move it into the switches on the network, you reduce the number of licenses a customer needs to buy,” says Steve Kenniston, a technology analyst with Enterprise Storage Group.

“Rather than having to update 100 servers in your environment with network-based volume management, you update a few Fibre Channel switches,” he says.

Veritas Software Corp., the leader in volume management with a 79 percent market share, according to Gartner, also is expected to demonstrate its Volume Manager operating on Cisco’s MDS 9000 Fibre Channel switches this week at its annual user event. Sources indicate that a product will ship before year-end.

PowerPath, EMC’s first volume-management software, will be host-based – it will operate on a Solaris server, and manage EMC Symmetrix and Clariion storage arrays. Over time, EMC will migrate this capability to the network – the company promises to introduce volume management operating on Cisco’s Fibre Channel in the next year.

IBM’s SAN Volume Controller groups SAN data into a common pool so resource utilization can be increased, and applications such as Flash or peer-to-peer remote copy can be enabled. The product, which IBM expects will be available in July, initially will work on IBM’s FAStT storage and its Enterprise Storage Server. Before year-end, this capability will be extended to non-IBM storage, IBM says.

With the TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller, arrays can be added or subtracted from the pool without taking down individual servers and storage systems. The SAN Volume Controller manages AIX, Windows 2000, Solaris, Linux and HP-UX operating systems, and Brocade, McData Corp. and Inrange Technologies Corp. Fibre Channel switches. It can mirror data between unlike storage arrays and in a future release virtualize pools of data consisting of other vendors’ storage. The software runs in the network on a pair of xSeries servers and starts at US$70,000 for the servers and up to two terabytes of storage. It is expected to be available in June.

In other announcements, IBM announced the TotalStorage SAN Integration Server, a package that consists of redundant Fibre Channel switches, the SAN Volume Controller and as much as 106 terabytes of disk capacity. IBM expects the product to be available in August, but has not set pricing.