EMC to display self-provisioning

EMC Corp. next week plans to announce the next phase of its AutoIS strategy, which will enable the policy-based provisioning of capacity from a pool of storage devices.

AutoIS is intended to reduce manual storage tasks and errors by automating the monitoring, management, control and provisioning of any vendor’s array across a pool of storage. While AutoIS consists of four products (ControlCenter/Open Edition, Replication Manager, Storage-Scope and the company’s Wide-Sky middleware,) EMC has talked about extending AutoIS capabilities to other EMC products, along with those of other vendors, in a phased rollout over the next few years.

“The automation of storage management is key for users to be able to manage the increasing terabytes of storage,” says Gary Helmig, managing director of Soundview Technology Group Inc., an investment banking firm. “You can liken it to what would have happened if automatic central [telephone] exchanges had not been installed and we still had to count on operators to run patch panels. There wouldn’t be enough people to do it and the errors would increase.”

Among the announcements EMC is expected to make this week at the Storage Decisions 2002 show in Chicago is the introduction of a storage resource management (SRM) package that lets storage capacity be assigned or provisioned by application. EMC is reported to be gaining its SRM expertise through an as-yet-unannounced acquisition of Precise Software Solutions, an application performance and storage management firm.

EMC declined to comment on the announcements.

“[EMC’s provisioning plans] sound like magic, don’t they…being able to assign capacity based on business-critical processes,” says Christopher Black, network operations manager for investment management software vendor Effron in White Plains, N.Y. Black uses EMC CLARiiON (stet) systems. “As our infrastructure grows we’ll need to be able to manage it as if it is one big piece, instead of lots of little pieces,” Black says. “AutoIS will be helpful whether you have two CLARiiONs and a Symmetrix or a Symmetrix and an IBM Shark.”

Traditionally storage is provisioned by manually adding capacity to new or existing applications. With SRM, IT managers can provide storage capacity automatically based on policies they create that specify the performance and availability requirements of an application.

For instance, an administrator can create a policy for a database that says that it needs to be available 24 hours a day, operate at 90 per cent efficiency and be able to be recovered in less than two hours. Software such as SRM, which is integrated with EMC ControlCenter/Open Edition, monitors the existing storage infrastructure and thresholds that have been set against service-level agreements. If data capacity reaches a threshold that indicates its application’s performance will be compromised, SRM automatically moves data to another disk and redirects the application to the new disk without shutting down the application. Conversely, additional capacity can be added or removed from the system without affecting operations.

“The value of automation is that policies tell you the value of an application to the business so you can prioritize the allocation of assets,” says Mike Karp, senior analyst for Enterprise Management Associates. “If you have a business-critical system that starts to bump up against the high-end threshold, you can automatically bring a system online without understanding the application.”

“Automation is a good idea, but EMC certainly isn’t the only company doing it,” Karp says.

Helmig points to IBM’s “Storage Tank” strategy, to Hitachi’s HiCommand and Hewlett-Packard’s VersaStor as examples of automated storage area management.

“EMC has been working on this for several years and has the most mature product at this point,” Helmig says. “What you are going to see this week is the continuing evolution of AutoIS. In addition, you are going to see the first implementation of control and automated provisioning in a heterogeneous environment.”

Gartner estimates that the market for storage management software will increase from US$8 billion this year to more than US$16.3 billion in 2005.

Helmig says EMC is expected to announce that by year-end, it will not only be able to monitor IBM and Hitachi storage arrays, but control and manage them from within their software with or without exchanging APIs with these vendors.

EMC also is expected to announce that it is preparing the framework for allowing the pooling of data, where storage on different physical devices is combined into groups of logically oriented storage, a process EMC’s CTO Mark Lewis calls data abstraction.

The company also will announce as soon as next month that it will introduce the CLARiiON CX400, a Fibre Channel array that is a companion to its recently introduced CX600.