Storage consolidation has been an important goal for IT managers during the last few years. Although enormous strides have been made on the hardware side of the house in terms of interoperability, the software components of storage management (virtualization/provisioning, SRM and so on) have been distinct entities until now.
eWeek Labs recently spent some time with Fujitsu Software Technology Corp., also known as Fujitsu Softek, to get a feel for the level of integration among storage management tools and to discover what advances to expect.
Storage management software consolidation is important because it will let IT managers use a single interface for most day-to-day duties. Currently, its not out of the ordinary to have nearly a dozen tools.
In this Tech Analysis, eWeek Labs looks at consolidation within a specific vendors product line. We focus this analysis on such a microcosm because interoperability among the software programs of multiple vendors will be far more difficult to achieve and is further out on the horizon.
Our general impression is that storage management consolidation is still not as strong as it should be—in fact, it seems like many storage tools (even from other vendors lines) are not linked at all with other tools in a product line. One of the first large-scale demonstrations of interoperable storage components, shown last month at Storage Networking World, in Orlando, Fla., shows IT managers will see major improvements over the next year.
Its difficult to estimate the cost savings related to consolidating storage management tools. Lowering the number of interfaces IT managers need to learn should make it easier to train people to manage the SAN (storage area network). Automation should also allow IT managers to get by with fewer technicians, although it will be a while before these systems run efficiently without human intervention.
Fujitsu Softek, established in April 2001, is a relatively new player in the storage market and wasnt part of the Storage Networking World demo. However, its approach to interconnecting storage components is intriguing.
In at least a couple of important areas, Fujitsu Softeks status as a newcomer is an advantage. First, the company isnt lugging around the big burden of legacy support. Second, its recent arrival to market means that it didnt have to reinvent the wheel to get the storage functionality it needed.
To break into the provisioning/ virtualization space, Fujitsu Softek initially had an OEM agreement with DataCore Software Corp. for its SANSymphony product. Fujitsu Softek subsequently acquired the SANSymphony code and tailored the SANSymphony interface to make it easier to navigate. In the near future (probably in a few months), it will be locked in with other Fujitsu Softek products.
To take care of device management, Fujitsu Softek acquired Vixel Corp.s SAN management software business, which yielded an impressive product called SAN InSite (and which Fujitsu Softek renamed SANView).
In tests, eWeek Labs examined the convergence capabilities of Fujitsu Softeks Softek Storage Manager, SANView and virtualization solutions.
Softek Storage Manager is an SRM (storage resource management) product, and for all intents and purposes, it will be the tool that IT managers find most useful for attacking the daily grind.
Like other SRM products we have seen from vendors such as W. Quinn Associates Inc. (now Precise Software Solutions Inc.), Softek Storage Manager tracks storage usage throughout a corporation and comes bundled with powerful reporting and analysis tools that allow IT managers to do trend analysis on storage infrastructure.
However, Softek Storage Manager stands out in its ability to manage a wide variety of servers. Other tools, including those from Precise Software, are Windows-centric.
In tests, we found that Softek Storage Manager, available now and priced at $25,000 (agents for managed servers start at $300 per server), is fairly easy to install and deploy. Softek Storage Manager requires a database to serve as a data repository, and, in our tests, we used Microsoft Corp.s SQL Server.
Agent software must be deployed to get information from clients. The installation process was easy, but it was a bit tedious because every server had to be touched.
Using Softek Storage Managers management GUI, we could easily search our storage systems for potentially illegal content (such as MP3 files), and we could find out which users and groups were using the most resources—an important tool for accounting.
Softek Virtualization is also available now. Network Edition licenses start at just under $25,000 per storage domain server, and the product melds the core technology of SANSymphony with a Softek-designed GUI.
Softek Virtualization is an in-band management solution that sits between storage units and servers and eliminates the need to implement intricate zoning and logical unit number masking to provision storage resources.
Since this is a software solution, IT managers can scale up performance by improving hardware (adding CPUs, host bus adapters or memory).
In tests, we were impressed with Softek Virtualizations ease of use, which allowed us to easily provision space for our servers.
Future releases of Softek Virtualization will be tied in with Softek Storage Manager so that when Softek Storage Manager detects a server that is low on space, it will automatically trigger Softek Virtualization to give that server more storage capacity.
Softek Virtualization worked fairly well in our tests with the companys backup solution, Softek Backup NetWorker Edition (an OEM of Legato Systems Inc.). Using Softek Virtualizations snapshot technology (to make point-in-time copies of a volume) it was possible to run backups without bringing down an active volume.
Softek SANView 4.1, which starts at $12,595, will be familiar to IT managers who have used Vixels products in the past because it is based on the SAN management tools that Vixel bundled with its Fibre Channel switches.
SANView automatically detects host bus adapters and Fibre Alliance Management Information Base-compliant switches, hubs, routers, bridges, disks and arrays when it is installed.
Using SANView, we could easily see the devices in our network, and it was simple to note each devices management tools. SANView also alerted us to hardware issues (such as failed power supplies) and allowed us to monitor the bandwidth utilization of each device.
Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar is at [email protected]