Creating cohesive storage management

Storage orchestration software holds the promise of seamless management. But for now, enterprise customers are stuck with point tools.

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Even if this creates a stand-alone silo of tools and data for backup and recovery, that's an improvement over the multiple silos (and multiple copies of data) many companies use for anything from testing to disaster recovery or data analytics, says Andrew Gilman, senior director of global marketing at Actifio. He also says Actifio's globally deduplicated object-based file system reduces costs by storing and moving only changes to data.

VirtualSharp Software says its ReliableDR "goes into the different layers of virtualization inside the cloud" and uses the APIs provided by storage vendors to create runbooks (defined sets of operations) to execute and verify disaster recovery and failover. However, it does this only for applications running on VMware hypervisors, and only for applications, not for the data they use.

Also, the tool supports only clouds running within corporate data centers, because, says CEO Carlos Escapa, "the market is so huge behind the firewall and the protection mechanisms are lacking." He adds that the fact that ReliableDR is capable of running multiple disaster recovery tests per day more than makes up for its lack of broader management capabilities.

Symantec's Virtual Business Services doesn't handle VM management or even storage provisioning such as zoning SANs or creating LUNs, says senior director of product management Douglas Fallstrom. It instead allows customers to define dependencies among the tiers of an application stack (including VMs and their associated storage) to better understand how the stack responds to the failure of one component. This helps ensure that the terms of SLAs for the storage tier are set properly and that performance can be measured.

Continuity Software's recently announced Availability Cloud/Guard aims to improve reliability by detecting problems such as situations where "clustered servers can't see new storage" because of a failure to map the new storage device to all the appropriate servers. That's a problem an administrator often wouldn't be aware of until the server "tries to use the storage [and] fails," says CTO Doron Pinhas. Cloud/Guard helps find such problems by comparing a customer's deployment with 6,000 deployment scenarios from the vendor's customers to "observe your effort to build the environment... and gently steer [the customer] in the right direction," he says.

Neverfail says its software provides "application-aware" disaster recovery and high availability for applications in hybrid public/private clouds. It does this, says CTO Paddy Falls, by intercepting file system updates from applications and storing a copy of the application on other servers on-premises or in the cloud. It allows the high-availability or disaster recovery server to run on a different platform than the production server, he says, and to mix physical and virtual servers or different hypervisors. The software doesn't, however, support object-based storage services.

Some tools focus on specific applications. Sanbolic recently announced the first public cloud support for Sanbolic AppCluster, a module within its Melio data management software that provides failover/migration, load balancing and quality-of-service support for Microsoft SQL Server.

As more routine storage functions are automated, and as businesses focus more on service levels rather than on the mundane tasks required to achieve them, the task of storage administration will move "from a pure storage administrator to maybe a DBA or maybe a policy administrator," Reichman predicts. "Instead of storage administrators doing only storage, expect to see more application administrators managing the infrastructure, [with] some of what was the server and storage team moving into those application or workload teams."

However, says Shahin Pirooz, CTO at hosted services provider CenterBeam, "you still need a core team of people to configure the orchestration" and build the infrastructure for higher-level administrators to manage.

Customer demands will eventually force vendors to provide more complete orchestration. Until then, CIOs who are evaluating storage management tools should find out which specific storage and hypervisor platforms the vendors support, determine which functions or applications they focus on and, above all, assess the total cost of ownership and ease of use of their offerings.

As Conway says, "I'd rather have three highly capable and easy-to-use tools than one tool that doesn't do as much as the three and is harder to manage."

Scheier is a veteran technology writer. You can contact him at

Read more about data storage in Computerworld's Data Storage Topic Center.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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