SAN Users Cry Out for Better Interoperability

By Mark Hachman  |  Posted 2004-04-07

SAN Users Cry Out for Better Interoperability

PHOENIX—Potential storage-area network customers continue to complain about interoperability, even as the first steps were taken Tuesday to simplify multivendor environments.

Even as the Storage Network Industry Alliance (SNIA) unveiled the Storage Management Initiative-Specification (SMI-S) at the Storage Networking World Conference here on Tuesday, customers complained that not enough has been done to manage storage networks and to allow administrators to configure them as they choose.

For more on SMI-S, read "Storage Vendors to Get SMI-S Stamp of Approval."

Meanwhile, a slew of storage networking vendors announced backup and restore solutions, answering the need to comply with regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which requires companies to hold on to documents for seven years in case of an audit.

While migrating from direct-attached storage on PCs and servers to dedicated SANs and NAS (network-attached storage) appliances is a problem that large enterprises have already faced, it is slowly becoming an issue at smaller companies. Several potential customers interviewed by said they have never purchased a SAN and are attending the storage conference to evaluate potential vendors.

Thats not to say they are eager. "We were going to do it a couple of years ago, but there werent any standards at the time," said Matt Bliss, information systems project director for the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe Indians Corporate Commission in Onamia, Minn., which manages its own casino.

"Now, weve reached a critical mass of data," enough that the tribe cant put off the purchase, Bliss said. He plans to implement a 2-terabyte SAN within the next 12 months and is leaning toward the EMC Clariion, he said.

Justifying a separate storage infrastructure can be a challenge. George Cromwell, an e-mail and systems administrator at Brigham Young University of Idaho in Rexburg, said hes not sure he can tell the university administration how long the 70 to 100 servers he may purchase will last, or if compatibility issues will crop up down the road.

"If we go in and want to build a SAN, they look at us as if were crazy," said John Greer, director of IT infrastructure at Pacific Gas & Electric Co., during a panel discussion here. "If we say we want to go in and solve some form of a business problem, thats when we get the funding. We get it business case by business case."

Meanwhile, Doug Busch, CIO at Intel Corp., of Santa Clara, Calif., said he is trying to apply defect models to storage to provide an additional metric to gauge the companys investment.

Next page: Deployments, management top list of concerns.

Management Concerns

For several customers, deployments and management topped the list of concerns. One data center manager said he has heard the same buzzwords repeated year after year. "These arent new concepts," said Ovidia Trevino, an employee of Nokia, who said he is amazed that the industry hasnt been able to create a vendor-agnostic management tool. "Youre creating silos [from one vendor]. You say youre not doing it, but youre doing it."

"You have to go all EMC or NetAppliance," Trevino said. "No one software tool can manage it. Each company has a good solution for a particular area, but no one company has it all."

Few vendors disclosed enhancements to their storage management tools at the show. One exception was AppIQ Inc., which said its StorageAuthority suite of integrated SAN management tools now supports switches and directors from Cisco Systems Inc., CNT and Qlogic Corp., in addition to McData Corp. and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. The additional support will be rolled out during the third quarter, the company said.

In addition, Advanced Digital Information Corporation (ADIC) announced StorNext Management Suite Version 2.3, a hierarchical storage management tool for migrating data from storage medium to storage medium. The new SNMS version can migrate data from RAID arrays and serial ATA disks, managing the automated replication of up to four copies of data on different media types, including WORM tape. SNMS 2.3 also adds support for 64-bit Itanium on Red Hat Linux.

Hierarchical storage management is what brought Richard Heltemes, responsible for hardware planning and configuration management of enterprise servers within Boeing Co.s shared services group, to the show. "Im not that familiar with SAN management tools," he said.

Atempo Inc., meanwhile, announced Atempo Storage Assessor, a new addition to its expanding professional services portfolio. Storage Assessor provides IT managers with a nonintrusive way to rapidly gain insight into the performance, status and utilization of network hardware, software and connectivity.

Next page: Recovery solutions unveiled.

Recovery Solutions

At least three vendors announced recovery solutions at the show, among them AT&T, which partnered with EMC Corp. and the Enterprise Vault technology designed by KVS Inc. to archive e-mail. Instead of hosting e-mail at a client site, AT&T indexes and hosts the e-mail at its data centers, making the data available to the end user. KVS will also make available its legal compliance module and discovery accelerator for deployment in June, speeding the legal "discovery" process of filtering documents for certain keywords, according to Bob Fidler, vice president of business development for KVS. Carolyn Hennessey Rose, hosting offer director for AT&Ts managed hosting services in Bridgewater, N.J., said the service will be rolled out on a per-user-per-month basis and will cover data being hosted at two data centers. She declined to disclose more detailed pricing metrics.

Also at the show:

  • SyncSort Inc. introduced Version 2.2 of its Backup Express software for Unix, Windows, Linux and NetWare environments. The software includes a new Internet Explorer-only GUI and an advanced protection manager that can restore at the file level, using only the allocated blocks at disk speeds, the company said. A minimum installation consisting of five to six clients will cost about $7,500, according to Victor Werner, director of marketing.

  • Solid Data Systems announced the second version of its R2 Revolutionary Recovery software, which can restore an Exchange database from a solid-state disk, a storage device that uses continually powered RAM for the fastest data rates possible. The new software interfaces to either Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Enterprise Edition or Microsoft Server 2003 Enterprise Edition. New features include the use of the Microsoft Management Console and a virtualized e-mail store that can be transparently displayed in a merged Outlook inbox. A 4GB, 500-user implementation will cost about $49,000, said Michael Harding, Solid Datas director of marketing. A 24GB device will cost more than $100,000.

  • Overland Storage demonstrated the R2000, a version of its disk-to-disk-to-tape appliance designed for speedy backup and recovery. The R2000 contains a Fibre Channel interface and is priced at about $13,500, a substantial discount from the iSCSI version, priced at about $24,995.

  • Ciena Corp. announced the general availability of CN 2000, the companys storage extension platform. CN 2000 physically isolates different applications, allowing them to share the same WAN. The platform uses the Asynchronous GFP-T standard for data adaptation, part of the ITU-T G.704/Y.1303 standard. The release allows up to 16 Fibre Channel, Gigabit Ethernet, ESCON or FICON services to share a single channel.

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    Editors note: This story has been corrected with the to include the price of the Overland Storage R2000, a product which was demonstrated but not introduced at the show.

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