The new SAN Advisor module for EMC Corp.s EMC ControlCenter is a powerful management tool that lets IT managers accurately plan storage area network deployments and upgrades. eWEEK Labs exclusive tests of SAN Advisor 5.2, slated for release this month, show that the product is a solid addition to the EMC ControlCenter line of storage management products. (This is the first version of SAN Advisorpreviously, the product was called SAN Architect.)For more on ControlCenter 5.2, click here. With SANs getting larger and more complex, design tools such as SAN Advisor 5.2 and its primary competitor, Computer Associates International Inc.s $720 BrightStor SAN Designer, will become more important. Considering that SANs are becoming more and more complex by the day and that most companies dont have the time and resources to train all their IT staff on SAN technologies, tools such as SAN Advisor 5.2 will become increasingly attractive because they allow low-level staff to do more SAN management tasks. Our tests show that SAN Advisor 5.2, a Web-based application, will be a valuable tool for mapping SAN resources, planning SANs and managing SAN changes in any company that has large SAN installations. Given the early state of the SAN design software tools market, however, we believe EMC should make a concerted effort to reach out to non-EMC shops by including discovery functionality with SAN Advisor 5.2. The most interesting aspect of SAN Advisor 5.2 is its best-practices and interoperability knowledge. At sites that already have EMC ControlCenter, SAN Advisor 5.2 can take discovery information from the repository to create information-rich snapshot files that contain the topology, firmware and driver revisions and hardware inventory of the SAN. On its own, SAN Advisor 5.2 does not have discovery capabilities, so it would be difficult for IT managers who dont have EMC ControlCenter 5.2 to get full use of the product. As we said earlier, EMC will need to include discovery in future versions of SAN Advisor to stay competitive with rivals. Without discovery capabilities, administrators must manually input all inventory data. CAs competing BrightStor SAN Designer is ahead of EMC in this regard, because CAs offering supports discovery of Cisco Systems Inc., Computer Network Technology Corp., McData Corp. and Qlogic Corp. environments. SAN Advisor 5.2 snapshots can be made on demand, or they can be scheduled, which make them a useful way to track changes made to the SAN. After importing discovery information from an eWEEK Labs test SAN, SAN Advisor 5.2 discovered several potential problems in it right out of the gate. SAN Advisor 5.2 found problems that ranged from trivial things, such as hard drives that were approaching end-of-life status in the test array, to major mistakes such as multipath host bus adapters that were accidentally plugged into the same server director switchwhich could have left us with a single point of failure at the director switch. In addition to finding these problems, SAN Advisor 5.2 also did a good job of recommending corrective actions to eliminate them. Next page: Planning well.
SAN Advisor 5.2 has a starting price of $5,000, and prices increase according to the amount of storage managed. EMC currently offers bundle pricing for its ControlCenter SRM Planning and Provisioning suitewhich includes SAN Advisor, SAN Manager and ARM (Automated Resource Manager)for a starting price of $22,000 for 1TB of managed storage. Discounts are available for larger enterprises.