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Policy-based automatic provisioning

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Those who read my articles regularly, know how I feel about the lack of interaction between storage infrastructure management point products and the applications that use the storage in a heterogeneous environment. InterSAN is addressing this issue with its recently announced Pathline product.

Today, there are products available that can easily discover all the components on a storage-area network (SAN) and create a map of the components for administrators to visualize. Many of these products provide environment-monitoring capabilities much like the popular network frameworks. However, given a problem these products cannot take anything but the simplest course of action because they have no interaction or knowledge of the applications using the infrastructure. This requires an expert administrator or two or three...

InterSAN's Pathline product solves this problem. Released for general availability last month, Pathline provides the automated discovery, topology rendering, and event management described above and goes beyond that. The product ties in the application to manage the relationship between the application and the data path through policy-based automatic provisioning.

Well, what does policy-based automatic provisioning mean? When storage is being allocated for an application, the administrator will either select an existing policy or create one specifically for that application. That policy defines the quality-of-service (QoS) requirements of the application. Once the policy has been chosen, Pathline creates the optimal data path, which InterSAN calls a Virtual Private Data Path (VPD), from the application to the storage where the application data resides. The SAN infrastructure components are configured automatically, without requiring administrator interaction at the component level.

So, what is meant by policy that defines QoS? The policies describe the type of storage, the connectivity and the amount of redundancy required by the application. Given the policy description the VPD is created or provisioned for that QoS. In conjunction with the data path description, a service level requirement can be set within the policy that defines the availability objectives (99.9%, 99.99%, etc.). Once a service level has been added to the policy, Pathline monitors and reports application-data-path uptime and alerts on exceptions.

Finally, though certainly not of least importance, Pathline policies allow security requirements to be described. The ability to define what actions to take upon an application data path security breach, provides a level of security management and enforcement currently unavailable from other software products.

At last, the storage management market, with the Pathline product, is starting to integrate capabilities to provide business-relevant management of storage and storage area networks.



Anne Skamarock is senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo., an analyst and market research firm focusing exclusively on enterprise management. She can be reached via e-mail.

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