EMC promises common management platform

EMC says that by year’s end it will begin delivering a common platform for managing the company’s myriad storage lines, an advance long desired by customers weary of juggling multiple interfaces.

“Over a year ago, we undertook a rearchitecture of our resource management platforms to evolve our ControlCenter product line and our element managers themselves into a common platform,” said Mark Lewis, executive vice-president and chief development officer at EMC, in an interview at the company’s user conference last month.

“This includes the reworking and building of a common platform framework we call CMP for Common Management Platform. All the products’ management — for Symmetrix, Clariion, Centera and Celerra — will converge to a common user interface.”

EMC plans to deliver unified products later this year and next, said Lewis, who did not provide additional details about the forthcoming management platform. It is expected that the common management interface will be applied to existing software products over time.

At EMC World in Orlando, it took no effort to get the company and its customers talking about the problems of managing data that resides on a variety of EMC gear — gear that was sold on the mantra of tiered storage, in which data is placed on appropriately priced media according to its business criticality and performance requirements.

As a result, users, who formerly may have owned only EMC Symmetrix or Clariion systems, have implemented a mixture of platforms — they have high-end Symmetrix DMX’s, mid-range Clariions, the company’s archiving and compliance Centera boxes and even its network attached storage Celerra system in their environments, each serving its purpose as highly accessible, secondary or archival storage. To discover, monitor, manage and configure these intertwined systems, however, they rely on separate storage management software, one for Symmetrix, a different set for Clariion and so on.

“All I can say is that it is about time EMC started pulling all of this together,” says Steven Olson, infrastructure manager for the Las Vegas Review-Journal in Nevada. “The last executive briefing I attended for EMC still showed the product sets as a whole lacked the tools necessary to manage a multi-tiered environment from EMC. Because of the tools they had at that time, moving data from Symmetrix to a Clariion and vice-versa was no easier than moving data from a Symmetrix to Network Appliance file server.”

Mack Kigada, systems engineer for Providence Health System in Portland, Ore., would also welcome a common interface, but has doubts about the company’s ability to pull it off.

“It would be great to have one common management interface, but since the platforms are of completely different architectures, I do not see how that is possible,” says Kigada. He has a Clariion box and a Celerra NSX attached to an EMC Symmetrix array. “Centera has the Centera viewer that includes a command line interface [CLI]. Celerra has its own Web-based management interface.”

For Kigada to manage his Symmetrix DMX he uses EMC’s Enterprise ControlCenter, which has a CLI; to manage Clariion he uses the NaviSphere Management Suite, which has primarily a Windows-based interface. For Centera he uses the Centera View, which has a CLI, and for Celerra he uses a Web-based management interface. To be able to establish relationships and connections between these storage systems in the same storage area network takes Kigada some manual calculation and reasoning.

“The closest EMC has come to converging its management is with EMC ControlCenter, but that does not manage the Clariions without launching the NaviSphere Management Suite,” says Kigada.

EMC’s Lewis says that the company’s separate management silos evolved because customers want to use them in different ways. Clariion users wanted a Windows look and feel; Symmetrix users were more interested in a command line interface and a Unix orientation.

“When we built the new piece we wanted to make sure we retained those capabilities and still had something easy enough to use,” says Lewis. “Customers [with heterogeneous EMC environments] have said they not only need one look and feel, but one architectural construct, one configuration management database and one provisioning system — so [with the new management software] you’ll have the same management interface and be able to understand the relationships between the two arrays.”

Analysts agree that a single resource management interface is sorely needed.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen an increasing tendency among businesses to integrate various networks and the resources attached to or associated with them,” says Charles King, senior analyst for PUND-IT Research. “Users with mixed EMC environments stand to reap significant benefits from the effort, which goes well beyond prettying up the user interface to thoroughly revamping and improving many applications and tools.”

King says a common interface also will benefit other existing customers.

“Additionally, the new software should help EMC customers, who are considering moving up the storage food chain, such as mid-market companies using Clariion or Celerra that are thinking of deploying high-end Symmetrix arrays or engaging in a formal archiving effort with Centera. A common set of interfaces and tools is likely to ease considerably such storage-expansion efforts.”

As for EMC’s competition, IBM has a common management package called IBM TotalStorage Productivity Manager Standard Edition, HP has Storage Essentials Enterprise Suite Software and Hitachi Data Systems has its HiCommand Resource Manager Utility.

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