AppIQ Steps Up Management

 
 
By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2005-09-26
 
 
 

AppIQ Steps Up Management


The improvements in AppIQ Inc.s AppIQ StorageAuthority Suite 4.0 demonstrate that this SAN management platform is evolving into a more complete system.



Click here to read the full review of AppIQ StorageAuthority Suite 4.0.

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The improvements in AppIQ Inc.s AppIQ StorageAuthority Suite 4.0 demonstrate that this SAN management platform is evolving into a more complete system.

As far as eWEEK Labs is concerned, that evolution cannot come quickly enough, given that IT managers are forced to monitor and maintain a growing number of storage management tools just to take care of their daily chores in the data center.

Click here to learn how old file servers can learn new storage tricks.

AppIQs commitment to storage standards such as SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification) and CIM (Common Information Model), as well as the companys support for a wide array of storage hardware, has made it a formidable force in the storage management space. And eWEEK Labs tests show Version 4.0 of the suite will keep up the pressure on other vendors. (Hewlett-Packard Co. is in the process of acquiring AppIQ.)

Version 4.0 provides the ability to manage and monitor Symantec Corp.s Veritas NetBackup servers and Network Appliance Inc.s NetApp Filers.

AppIQ StorageAuthority Suite 4.0 began shipping last month, and the base console is priced starting at $30,000. The new StorageAuthority for NetApp module starts at $30,000 and is offered as a stand-alone product for IT managers who want just NAS (network-attached storage) management. The NetBackup module starts at $15,000.

AppIQs new modules are a decisive step in the right direction, but our tests show that there is definitely room for improvement. For example, the suite still lacks iSCSI support, and the platform has few provisions for advanced management of NAS units.

AppIQ StorageAuthority Suite 4.0 is a good fit, however, for midsize and large enterprises that have complex SAN (storage area network) infrastructures because it allows IT administrators with limited SAN skills to skillfully allocate and monitor storage.

In tests, AppIQs new storageAuthority Protection Manager for NetBackup module allowed us to discover and monitor backup servers in our network. Once enabled, the Protection Manager module added a window to our AppIQ management interface that showed the status and results of older backup jobs, eliminating the need to install and launch NetBackup software on our AppIQ management station.

AppIQ plans to expand the Protection Manager module to cover Symantecs Backup Exec, EMC Corp.s Legato NetWorker and IBMs Tivoli Storage Manager in future revisions of the suite.

The AppIQ upgrades linking of backup software reporting management to storage management tools will allow IT managers to get a better idea of what data would be at risk in the event of a disaster or a SAN outage.

Among AppIQ competitors, Computer Associates International Inc. has done a fairly good job of linking its SRM (storage resource management) tools to its backup products, and we hope more vendors will work to integrate backup reporting and management into their storage management tools.

Version 4.0s StorageAuthority for NetApp module is AppIQs first stab at managing NAS units. Considering that most companies already have NAS installations, it makes sense for storage management software vendors—which, up to now, have focused mainly on SAN and DAS (direct-attached storage) management—to work more closely with NAS products from market leaders such as EMC, Network Appliance and HP.

The StorageAuthority for NetApp module allowed us to discover NetApp Filers on our IP network and provision their resources out to users. In this current release, however, the StorageAuthority for NetApp module cannot manage advanced Filer features such as quotas, snapshots or data replication.

According to AppIQ officials, a point release in the first quarter of next year will add snapshot and quota management to the NetApp module.

Next Page: Under better management.

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In addition to the new modules, AppIQ StorageAuthority Suite 4.0 includes a couple of enhancements that make management more efficient. Using Version 4.0, IT managers can scan a particular group of devices for new information, instead of searching the entire SAN. Past releases required a scan of the entire SAN to find new resources and configuration changes. This could be a long and tedious process for IT managers with large SANs.

AppIQs traditionally robust storage provisioning and SRM capabilities continue to be strengths in this update. StorageAuthority Suite 4.0s storage provisioning capabilities allowed us to quickly find available storage resources and connect them to our servers, using a simple workflow management interface .

Behind the scenes, the suite takes care of zoning, LUN (logical unit number) masking and volume creation—effectively allowing system administrators who arent SAN experts to provision storage on their own.

AppIQs Application Path Management function, which shows how application servers are connected to a SAN, came in very handy in tests. Using this feature, we could easily and quickly assess the topology of a SAN and find common mistakes. For example, we could quickly see if two server HBAs (host bus adapters) were plugged into the same switch, making that switch a potential single point of failure.

The Application Path Management feature can also gauge applications to find out what data volumes would be affected if a particular switch, storage unit or HBA were to fail.

For more in-depth management of applications, AppIQ also offers application monitoring modules for Sybase Inc., Oracle Corp., and Microsoft Corp. Exchange and SQL Server databases. Monitoring modules are also available for file servers. Using these modules, IT managers can obtain capacity management and disk performance information on the various databases and data repositories used by an application.

Centralizing application and storage performance into a single platform enables IT managers to more easily determine if the source of a performance bottleneck is related to storage, the network or the server (CPU or RAM).

AppIQ StorageAuthority Suite currently does not have a tool for change management, unlike competing storage management suites such as EMCs ControlCenter. Tools such as EMCs SAN Advisor allow IT managers to keep track of changes made in a SAN, which is extremely important not only for documentation purposes but also for SAN troubleshooting and maintenance. AppIQ officials said they are investigating the development of this type of tool.

AppIQ StorageAuthority Suite also lacks the ability to manage iSCSI devices. This weakness is hardly damning, though, considering that there are currently no standards in place for managing iSCSI targets. Each iSCSI device has its own management interface, and no vendor really has this functionality to date.

iSCSI storage is still a small market when compared with NAS and SAN installations, but its growing rapidly, and the absence of centralized management tools will be a pain point for IT managers in coming years.

iSCSI support will be available sometime next year, according to AppIQ officials.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

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EVALUATION SHORTLIST

Creekpath Systems Inc.s Creekpath Suite A competitive storage management suite from a smaller vendor (www.creekpath.com)

EMCs ControlCenter Full-featured storage management suite has change management capabilities that are currently not available in AppIQ (www.emc.com)

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.

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