Blazing An SRM Trail

EMC, Veritas, others build tools for handling information growth.

John Halamka has more data than ever before. However, unlike in the past, hes not going to focus on getting more storage hardware when he files his 2003 capital budget in October.

The seven-person storage staff working for Halamka, CIO of CareGroup Healthcare Systems, in Boston, administers 40 terabytes of transaction data per day on Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. databases, in addition to running a 20-terabyte storage area network from EMC Corp. And every night, Halamka said, "I back up all of my data storage and take it off-site" to an underground former nuclear missile silo run by Iron Mountain Inc.

So instead of more disks and tapes this year, "Im saying I need more storage management solutions," Halamka said. "Its critically important in a patient care environment that I be able to maintain and easily retrieve data, [but] Ive not heard about anything particularly innovative."

Software makers are trying to fill that need. New SRM (storage resource management) products from EMC, IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Veritas Software Corp. all debuted in August and September. IBM will roll out more software in October. SRM software manages and provisions actual disks, volumes and logical unit numbers—as compared with managing actual data or network infrastructure.

The most advanced products, industry observers say, are EMCs ARM (Automated Resource Manager) and Veritas SANPoint Control 3.5.

ARM, announced Sept. 16, is slated to ship by mid-November. The product will help users create and specify storage provisioning policies and allocation pools, often creating storage virtualization. It also will identify unused storage, from the point of view of hosts, host bus adapters, ports or arrays, and it helps users consolidate multivendor management. EMC does that through a combination of API swaps with numerous third-party vendors and with HP and through ongoing reverse-engineering efforts to analyze APIs of Hitachi Ltd. and IBM. ARM pricing ranges from $7,000 for a 250GB minimum to $112,000 for uses of more than 14 terabytes, officials said.

Veritas SANPoint Control 3.5 supports Oracle databases and Microsofts Exchange servers. It also now controls direct-attached storage. It is shipping now and starts at about $20,000 for a 16-port system, plus the cost of application agents, starting at $745 each. The Mountain View, Calif., company is planning a 4.0 upgrade for next year, which will have network-attached storage and iSCSI support, plus file system management and policy provisioning, officials said. Veritas will also use the evolving CIM (Common Information Model) to interoperate with other vendors products. EMC, of Hopkinton, Mass., is making a similar promise.

IBMs Tivoli SRM (Storage Resource Manager) 1.0, mostly built with technology from IBMs acquisition of TrelliSoft Inc., will launch Oct. 8 at the Gartner Symposium, in Orlando, Fla. Along with TrelliSofts original functions, Tivoli SRM will get capacity management and chargeback features, and it will share data with Tivoli Storage Manager 5.1.5, a backup product. It will also share data with Tivoli Enterprise Data Warehouse and with Tivoli Storage Area Network Manager—a renamed version of the current Tivoli Storage Network Manager—which will also debut Oct. 8, a spokeswoman of the Austin, Texas, division said. CIM support will come early next year.

HPs Storage Area Manager 3.0, available now, and Storage Provisioner 1.0, due later this year, and Suns StorEdge Resource Management Suite, which debuted in August, also aim to tackle automated SRM challenges.

"Its not a coincidence that they all happen to be working on SRM," said Robert Passmore, an analyst with Gartner Inc., in Northboro, Mass. "Customers have a fundamental need to understand what storage they have, when theyre running out of it, when they need more and why." The problem with the typical product for sale until now, Passmore said, is that "it does not reduce the data to a conclusion. The SRM products as a whole dont give complete views of any perspective. [In addition], they certainly dont take a proactive, fix-it stance." But they are improving, Passmore said.

However, Bob Messier, director of production services for Halamkas team at CareGroup, is skeptical.

"We use pretty smart people to do that management. I know that theres promise of products that will come out that will allow you to manage across vendors. I just dont think its a practical solution," Messier said. By the time the SRM space matures, "the amount of storage well be managing is going to go to the next dimension and cause a whole new set of problems."