Managing storage, new data center style

One expert's take on how storage and systems management come together.

When the time comes for crafting a management strategy for the new data center, systems, storage and network managers are saying good-bye to the independence they've long enjoyed. Companies are quickly learning that the new data center is all about managing "the system," meaning the overall infrastructure of servers, network devices and storage - encompassing just about any hardware and software asset in an IT shop - and not the piece parts.

That puts Computer Associates, HP and IBM - the three traditional management framework vendors - in the spotlight. These are the vendors that companies are turning to for a "single pane of glass" from which they can monitor, analyze and manage their IT assets.

Each of these vendors has so far done a reasonable job of providing the ability to monitor systems within a particular discipline - most often for the network or server infrastructure. But monitoring and managing are not at all the same, and while the ability to monitor elements and events is a necessary first step, it is only that - a first step.

Here's a look at where CA, HP and IBM stand in their efforts to place all management within a single framework and give corporations that big-picture view. The onus to get storage management integrated is particularly strong, given the rising importance of information life-cycle management, regulatory compliance and service-level agreements within the modern enterprise.'width=

CA's business view

CA is building its Enterprise IT Management (EIM) strategy for integrating related but occasionally disparate technologies around a vision it calls "business-driven IT." In storage, this vision will manifest as the integration between the BrightStor storage resource management and SAN Manager tools, and between mainframe and open systems SRM tools. (The ability to manage mainframe and open systems environments has been one of CA's strengths).

With such integration, users get an end-to-end, cross-platform view of the complete storage environment. Add in interoperability between BrightStor SRM and BrightStor ARCserve Backup, and users will be able to align storage resources and data protection. CA's storage team has made big strides with the BrightStor brand, moving it from a collection of often good but frequently disconnected products to a set of interoperable offerings that share common services. The next step will be integrating BrightStor with Unicenter for desktop management and eTrust for security management.

CA hasn't announced a timeline for this broad-scale integration, leading some industry watchers to wonder whether such a hefty initiative is even possible. But CA has proven its mettle in storage management. For decades, the company grew through a long series of major and minor acquisitions. In storage, this resulted in a mixture of unconnected products from many vendors - Cheyenne Software and Sterling Software, among others. Within the last two years, CA has rationalized its storage portfolio, and most, if not all, of the various products now share a common code base. These products are not only integrated, but interoperable.

CA has plenty of expertise to apply to large-scale integration projects, and clearly is doing so. Expect clarification regarding systemwide management integration in the near future.

HP's eye on agility

HP's focus for the rest of the decade (and perhaps beyond) will be on creating agile environments capable of supporting a utility computing model. Toward that end, HP in February announced HP Storage Essentials, SRM software it is integrating with its Systems Insight Manager (SIM) to achieve a unified storage and server management architecture, expected in the third quarter of 2005.

HP Storage Essentials is a standards-based suite with space for third-party plug-ins (as long as they are standards-compliant). It includes integrated heterogeneous functionality for SAN management, SRM, provisioning and application infrastructure monitoring. At present, no competitive SRM offering discovers more elements on a SAN (including arrays, switches, host bus adapters and fabrics) than does HP's.

HP SIM can be installed out-of-the box, and, in its basic form, comes with all HP servers and storage systems. It enables basic discovery and management of HP servers and networked storage devices using standards such as Common Information Model, Storage Management Initiative Specification, Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware and Windows Management Instrumentation.

At the time of installation, managers also can consolidate all of their server and storage management data within an Oracle 9i database. HP has not said when it will integrate the server-storage management platform with network or security management products, or whether it intends to bring this all under its flagship OpenView framework. But with HP set to offer a single console for managing servers, blade systems and advanced storage features, the likelihood is high that it eventually will pull all management into a single console.

IBM's services strategy

IBM Tivoli has managed storage and systems at the enterprise level for a long time, and more recently for midsize companies. Monitoring and alerting software for storage and systems feed into a common Tivoli Enterprise Console.

IBM's new IT Service Management strategy includes a focus on information life-cycle management that extends across storage, systems management and application performance management. Using a combination of Tivoli Provisioning Manager, Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrater, TotalStorage Productivity Center and Tivoli Service Level Advisor tools, IBM hopes to enable users to align business requirements with relationships between the data, the application, and with the data's relationship to the storage, server and network platforms. However, full integration is still some time away.

IBM integrates storage, network and server management using a standards-based approach and continues investing heavily in developing centralized management. This summer, IBM expects to have management products available for configuration, provisioning, workload scheduling and orchestration, security management and ILM services. Much of these will be integrated with the company's WebSphere product, as well.

IBM also leads the pack on automation. By this time next year, IBM expects to offer a common database that collects and does ongoing monitoring of the changes occurring within the utility environment being managed. The Tivoli Enterprise Console should comprise a highly automated tool set.

7 tips for managing storage in the new data center

The vendor challenges ahead

Managing the new data center will require an ability to monitor, analyze and manage the elements that comprise the data center's ecosystem and the relationships that exist between those elements. In utility environments, the relationships will be constantly changing, for whenever use of data, hardware or software changes, the assets - storage, networking and servers - will have to adapt to those changes.

Managing all this change will be made easier as storage gets treated as a virtualized pool. Vendors must ensure their tools can carry out automated provisioning and de-provisioning cost effectively. Any management provider, whether it offers an enterprise framework or a small plug-in, will have little value if it is not itself automated or cannot accommodate another module's automation.

The only efficient way to implement automation will be to rely completely on standards-based interfaces. Technology partners must be able to pass data required for interoperability easily among their systems. Some of these standards already are quite mature, while others are in the early development stages. As is the case with automation, any vendor unwilling to commit to standards-based management is unlikely to be a player in the long term.

SMI-S and beyond

When it comes to storage, one standard prevails: the Storage Networking Industry Association's Storage Management Initiative Specification. SMI-S.

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Karp is senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, focusing on storage, storage management and vendor strategies. He can be reached at mkarp@enterprisemanagement.com.

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