Vendors scramble to manage mixed storage nets

A string of recent news announcements from major storage vendors highlights the industry’s ongoing rush to consolidate and automate the management of heterogeneous storage devices.

Just last week:

– EMC Corp. launched a storage resource management product called Enterprise ControlCenter Automated Resource Manager (ARM) and a multivendor storage-area network package called SAN Manager.

– Veritas Software Corp. announced the next version of its SANpoint Control Version 3.5 software, which adds support for direct-attached storage and tape, and rules-creation, provisioning and reporting capabilities.

– Hewlett-Packard Co. rolled out the next version of its Enterprise Network Storage Architecture, called ENSAextended, and a new version of its OpenView Storage Area Manager (SAM) software. SAM will now manage EMC Symmetrix, IBM Enterprise Storage Server, and Hitachi Lightning and Thunder arrays.

– Computer Associates International Inc. this week will announce the next step in its Enterprise Storage Automation strategy – the BrightStor Portal – that groups its storage software together under one Web interface.

“Storage is still one of the last bastions of manual labor,” said Steve Duplessie, senior analyst for Enterprise Storage Group Inc. “Automating manual tasks is a great idea for all the obvious reasons – it gives a consistent way to do things and by eliminating boring, error-prone manual tasks, frees up IT staff to do smarter things.”

The storage management market is hot, with Gartner Inc. analysts pegging it this year at US$8.5 billion and increasing to more than $16 billion by 2005. The move toward automating storage management features that are now mostly manual promises to save network managers time while increasing efficiency and accuracy.

Steve Freund, group vice president for insurance company CNA Financial Corp. in Chicago, has tested EMC’s ARM with his network storage.

“When we put in our SAN, we knew we would encounter productivity issues and would need these EMC tools available to us to help improve the productivity of our storage administrators,” Freund said.

The insurance company’s SAN contains EMC Symmetrix arrays, 1,500 Fibre Channel ports and 60 terabytes of data.

“These tools help us to be more responsive in provisioning storage to meet application requirements,” Freund said.

Provisioning storage isn’t a simple task. It can take as many as 42 steps to add additional space to a high-end storage array, observers say.

James Barry, CIO for the Boston Bank of Commerce, uses the BrightStor Portal and will look at CA’s storage automation products.

“Our business plan is focused on growth through acquisition, so I have an ever-growing complexity in my [storage] environment,” Barry said. “In bringing that new data in, having the ability to dynamically allocate or manage storage saves me plenty of time.”

“Our storage consists of a ton of data in different places being managed by different [storage tools],” Barry said, adding that he has about 250G bytes of direct-attached Dell Computer Corp. storage in multiple locations.

“With the BrightStor portal we are able to view all our data and the large variety of storage software we use from a single interface,” he said.

Barry said that with automation tools he would be able to create rules that would dynamically archive his storage to DVD.

The automated provisioning of storage is just gathering steam, largely because of the difficulty vendors are having retrofitting existing software or writing new software to address the need.

Although the storage automation market is still small – only $50 million in 2002 according to The Yankee Group – as vendors start shipping products, it will grow into a $500 million market by 2005.

There is so much interest in reducing manual storage tasks that a number of small companies are getting involved. InterSAN, Creekpath Systems Inc. and Fujitsu Softek Technology Corp. are shipping products that automate the provisioning of storage. Start-ups Invio, AppIQ Inc. and StorScape Inc., while in stealth mode, are doing automated provisioning.

Analyst Duplessie said that storage automation consists of four elements: the ability to discover, monitor and group assets; a rule-based engine to enforce service-level agreements; the ability to take action based on triggers; and the capability to automatically provision storage.

“EMC clearly has the leg up on practical and usable tools for storage management,” Duplessie said. “BMC Software, on the other hand, while having an early lead in application integration, has fallen behind in provisioning and automation.”

Jamie Gruener, a senior analyst for The Yankee Group, said the need for automation will spur changes in the way customers deploy storage.

“To a certain extent these vendors have to make storage so automated [that] there is no need for a [vendor’s] engineer to come in and set up storage,” Gruener said.

A number of large storage companies are promising more automated storage software.

CA said it will provide automated provisioning of multivendor storage within the next six months.

BMC Software Inc. will announce tools for provisioning and automated storage management to its Application-Centric Storage Management initiative, which associates specific applications with physical and logical storage assets.

HP said its storage software division will within two months introduce OpenView Storage Provisioner, its automated storage allocation software, and management support for EMC Clariion arrays.