IBM Corp. introduced a suite of storage management tools this week, designed to allow IT staff to manage storage environments that include gear from a variety of vendors.

The IBM suite, called the IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center, offers centralized management of multiple storage hardware systems; heterogeneous storage area network (SAN) management, error detection and analysis; and storage resource management, including monitoring, reporting and alerts.

Any storage device that meets the Storage Management Interface Specification (SMI-S) can be managed using the IBM tools, said Kyle Foster, general manager of storage systems for IBM Canada Ltd.

SMI-S resulted from a collaboration between a variety of storage manufacturers, integrators and end users. The specification defines an open standard application program interface that vendors can build around, so their products can interoperate.

“We have to stop defining the infrastructure using the brand names of manufacturers, because they’re all present in customer environments,” Foster said. “We need to focus on the speedy adoption of standards.”

Alan Freedman, an analyst with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said there’s a need for standards-based storage management products in the market.

“Storage management is probably the number one issue right now amongst network administrators and IT managers,” he said. “The number one issue within storage management is heterogeneity and how you deal with it.”

If IT staff are forced to use more than one storage management tool, their productivity goes down, Freedman noted.

IBM is focused on solving three main problems facing IT staff in managing storage, Foster said. The first is utilizing capacity more effectively, because storage utilization is currently lower than it should be. The second problem is that IT staff are overwhelmed, because they have to use too many tools to manage their storage infrastructures. And the third problem is that because IT staffers are so overwhelmed, they make mistakes, resulting in applications not being available.

The TotalStorage Productivity Centre is part of the IBM TotalStorage Open Software Family, which marries the storage management and automation functions found in IBM’s Tivoli storage software with the storage virtualization found in IBM’s TotalStorage Virtualization Family.

The TotalStorage Virtualization family consists of hardware and software that allow companies to treat multiple storage assets as if they were one logical asset. This allows firms to allocate storage across all their storage devices more efficiently, according to IBM.

The Productivity Centre is slated for release in May. Pricing will start at US$5,000.

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