Unmanageable SANs

Weary storage administrators rejoice, because the first comprehensive storage management solutions are finally here. Fujitsu Software Technology Corp.’s Storage Manager and TrueSAN Networks Inc.’s CloudBreak software deliver a range of functionality, including data management, storage resource management, virtualization, and monitoring — all through a single interface.

These are the first products that attempt to reduce the number of system interfaces needed to manage a SAN (storage area network). Experts hailed both products for the way they can ease a storage administrator’s burden, and rightly so.

If automobiles were built the same way SANs are configured today, there would be a lot fewer cars on the road. Getting a new car would require lengthy and frustrating searches for components, careful comparisons of specs and compatibility sheets, and finally a prolonged and expensive installation to put everything together. And in the end, the car would be 100 times more expensive, and could only be manoeuvred by a well-trained crew, because each part — gear shift, differential, steering system, etc. — would have separate, independent controls.

SANs are a just such a hodgepodge of mixed-vendor solutions, complicated by mushrooming storage requirements and security concerns.

Bundled storage software tools from Softek and TrueSAN, as well as ongoing interoperability efforts such as EMC’s AutoIS initiative, respond to a heartfelt need for simplification. But these centralized, comprehensive management solutions may fall short in trying to be all things to all administrators. During a recent IDC Storage Web Conference, analysts agreed that although storage software tools will ultimately consolidate into fewer and fewer products, the technology isn’t mature enough to integrate these tools without watering down their individual capabilities. So by being first-to-market with bundled storage management software, Softek and TrueSAN have raised an interesting question: Just how soon should administrators begin deploying bundled storage software tools?

Until storage software matures, it may be better to pick and choose point solutions as needed. Even with a comprehensive storage management product, administrators will still find themselves implementing the new management platform alongside their existing backup and recovery software, adding extra management consoles no matter what.

In seeking simplification through bundled storage software products, customers should be ready to assume the inevitable risks associated with new technologies. Unfortunately, in the case of storage management, the alternative could be far worse than exposing the enterprise to innovative and possibly unproven solutions.

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