Just recently, I joined a project where the goal was to implement cheaper storage. The cost needed to be reduced obviously. I joined the project when the RFP was already done and vendor selection was already done too, so I had no part in the selection process.
My involvement in the implementation was primarily the implementation of a High Performance NAS box and prepare a file services environment for virus scanning, NDMP backup and all that goes with an implementation like NAS. As a second activity I also assisted in the implementation of the management software for the mid-range/modular FC block storage, which happened to be the same vendor as the NAS box.
Like we are used too, the most part of the implementation went without any problem and the gear does what it is supposed to do. What did get my attention however is the management interfaces the vendor had us implement.
The thing I think is most concerning is that vendors think it is OK to implement management software that just doesn’t seem to be fully completed yet, or is going through a transition between older and newer versions, where it seems to be caught up by new technologies faster than the pool of programmers can update the code of the management software.
I have to admit, personally, I never was a fan of the EMC Control Center suite, but I always keep an open mind. However, most EMC shops I worked in, storage admins were complaining about the speed (or better said the lack thereof), functionality, and problems they were experiencing with ECC. I myself turned to the CLI after spending more time looking at the hourglass then actually provisioning anything. In one place I worked in, the ECC server farm had a tremendous capex and opex for managing about 18 symmetrix boxes. A complete server farm was needed to run the ECC suite, including the Storage Scope reporting tool. I was always wondering why customers actually did put up with these practices. Now, with the 6.x version of ECC, things seem to have improved greatly. But still, the customers I speak to, pay a shipload of money to run ECC (license fees, personnel cost, and server cost), while they only use the CLI to manage their EMC storage farm. I just don’t understand that.
One other example I’d like to mention, is HDS’s management suite, they call Hitachi Device Manager (HDvM). A previous version was called Storage Navigator Modular (SNM). SNM version 2 was an improvement over version 1 of course, but never made it to a complete product. Now HDS is transitioning their SNM2 suite into HDvM, where some parts of SNM2 are still using parts of SNM1. While using HDvM, you still have to use SNM2 for some tasks, because not all functions have been ported to HDvM. In my book, this is an incomplete product, and should not be sold to customers, especially ones running in an high-end shop. While working with HDvM and considering all the ancient elements in the software, it kinda made me compare it to Microsoft’s pre-Vista (some will say pre-XP) era, where many modifications were made on top of each other, actually not improving the OS as a whole. Even the CLI for this suite of products are different. There’s a CLI for HDvM, SNM2 and even a separate one for managing replication (CCI-RaidManager).
Then there’s IBM, which is struggling for years to put all storage management software under a single framework. For TSM there is the Integrated Solution Console, for the DS8000 there is a similar themed but completely different product called TotalStorage Manager for DS8000, as well as the SVC Console. The Totalstorage (or System Storage, I can’t keep up with their marketing name changes) web based management tools all have the same theme, but work completely different. For more then six years now, they are trying to simplify management. Most of IBM’s products are based on WebSpere which in my opinion is OK, but should be more reliable. Upgrading the WAS (Websphere Application Server) can break the management console a bit too easy with all the prereqs and pitfalls. In many cases admins revert to completely reinstalling instead of upgrading. Again, not good.
I haven’t been able to get experience with all vendor’s products and management software so I cannot and will not say this applies to all vendors, but the large ones surely have issues getting the management software right and tight. For all the products I know, myself and many others seem to prefer the CLI to manage storage. For all the money involved in this area, that seems like a bad thing to me.
So many vendors are playing catch up to play in the storage arena, all claiming simpler, cheaper, more efficient storage environments by introducing clouds, fancy licensing constructions, and what not. But I think the vendors should pay more attention to the way they build their management software. Just make it work, work fast, work efficient, and make it easy to use.
I thinks there’s plenty of work to be done there which in return can make true to many of the ROI promises the vendors make.
Please comment on this article of you agree or disagree, or share your own experience with us. Some examples of when a vendor has a great GUI or management suite would also be nice.
This article is an expression of my own personal opinion and is not to be related to any contract or consulting position I filled, nor is it in any way sponsored.