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back to article Storage management tools SUCK. We're getting what we pay for

Five years or so when I started blogging about storage I spent much time venting my spleen at EMC, especially the abomination that was ControlCenter; a product so poor that a peer in the industry once described it as being “too expensive even if it was free.” And yet the search for the perfect storage management product still …

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out of interest...

Has anyone ever come across a software virtual-SAN, by which I mean a service running that for example emulates EMC hardware so it can be used for training with EMC toolset?

While we have production and DR arrays, neither are really suitable for bringing new folks up to speed (yes, we do send people on training courses, this was just kind of a wish-list sort of thing).

Even something that back-ends SMI-S would be good, doesn't necessarily have to be EMC specific I guess.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: out of interest...

Dunno about EMC, but there's a virtual version of the Oracle/Sun ZFS storage array that runs inside Virtualbox. It's used by Oracle training, you can create a cluster of virtual Solaris nodes connected to a virtuial ZFS-SA storage box. No reason that EMC et al couldn't do it if they tried...

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Re: out of interest...

You can get a virtual EMC VNX and Isilon that will emulate everything as vmware guests (vnx won't act as a fibre channel target, but NFS/CIFS/HTTP/ISCSI fine). There isn't a virtual VMAX outside of EMC, but you can do a number of things using EMC's solutions enabler and pointing to a offline copy of a symapi database. The Isilon is more of a ask your sales guy thing, and he'll first point you to their hosted virtual isilon's that are the same just hosted inside EMC somewhere (they might also have hosted VNX's and actual virtual VMAX, but don't know on that for sure)

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Re: out of interest...

As long as you have EMC Support log-ons (if you are a customer, you should), you should be able to get hold of the virtual Isilon as a download. Internally EMC have virtual versions of about everything including VMAX, although the requirements to run the virtual VMAX are a little heavy.

Over time, I suspect we will see more and more of their products appearing in virtual editions; whether as pure sales/education tools or as fully supported products...time will tell.

Anyway, keep nagging vendors in general to release their products in virtual form...EMC and NetApp have led the way in this.

I'd like to see IBM put out a virtual V7000 for training and testing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: out of interest...

Yeah, IBM does the same with XIV, etc. There is a demo mode which mocks up a hypothetical environment and you can perform storage tasks inside of it with the actual outcomes. It was originally created, hence the name, as a way to demo the products for sales purposes, but works for admin training as well.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: out of interest...

I don't think IBM has a V7000/SVC demo out. The XIV GUI is the same, but obviously different functionality (no need to stripe RAID and set up tiering in XIV). They could probably set up a demo VPN for you, but I don't believe it is a native part of the product like XIV.

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Re: out of interest...

NetApp has virtual editions of both their FAS line (7mode and clustered) and the Eseries. They are downloadable from the support site. Hitachi had a virtual VSP program that I had a copy of but I haven't looked recently. Other people pointed out the EMC emulators.

All of them are great ways to try out the interfaces for different vendors. It's also a great way to test out scripts or orchestration flows without borking your real SAN.

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Silver badge

As far as I know SAN admin/management tools were never designed to squeeze out the last drop of capacity from storage, they were designed to make management quicker and easier, and therefore cheaper. Capacity optimization was never a priority.

The SAN tools are okay but they don't address the complicated bits on the client, where the admin must be adept at VxVM, ZFS, LVM, SVM, multipathing, mkfs on the Unix side, and another set of complexities on the windows side.

@Ianalot there is/was a simulator for VxVM out there but little else. The manufacturers perhaps prefer to sell you courses at £1000 per day.

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Devil

Storage "Management" Tools

Yes, storage management tools suck, and have done for years. Tools in various guises have promised to manage all your storage arrays from different vendors in "a single pane of glass" (Yeah, right). Some managed to make nice pictures of your SAN (AppIQ), I plotted my old company's SAN on A0 paper using this. It was nice to hang on the wall and impress people. But for actually managing and provisioning storage, it was faster and easier using native tools, command line and excel......

EMC Control Center wasn't THAT bad. It was good for provisioning DMX-3 storage, and providing some nice reports. The horde of agents was crap, though. Especially the resource-hungry host agents, which filled the local disks with log files and hung for no apparent reason. And you still needed all the native storage tools like HDvM and SYMCLI installed somewhere.

We'll be giving EMC's SRM Suite a test drive soon, and see if anything has improved.

By the way, if you REALLY want to embarrass EMC and make them VERY sheepish, just mention Invista....... (I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it)

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Anonymous Coward

I think server-SAN is real. Google, fb, Amazon, etc already run entirely in a server-SAN model and have never used traditional storage sub-systems. It is just less costly to scale out and cluster white box servers than invest in proprietary storage hardware and software. It will be interesting to see if companies choose to re-tool for server-SAN or if they just choose to start sending data, e.g. NAS, to one of the cloud providers who already has the scale out environment in place.

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Anonymous Coward

Virtual Isilon for Evaluation/Test and Training

EMC make their virtual Isilon available for evaluation, test/dev and training. Not really for perfromance tests but it seems pretty much the same as the actual product. (You may need temp license keys from your EMC rep for some features.)

Who wants their first experiments to be with live systems :-)

http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/virtual_geek/2014/04/love-isilon-want-to-play-merry-xmas.html

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Pay for a SAN - then pay for the tools to figure out what it's doing? Why?

Virtual arrays aside, and back on topic. Storage management tools don't need to SUCK. The problem is there insistence of an Enourmous Margin Corporation to put a line item on every single thing. Then again, if a customers willing to pay $10,000 for a SSD, they probably will cough up a few grand to support it....

Nimble Storage Infosite:

Cloud based telemetry of your entire storage ecosystem. Proactive modeling of the telemetry data so that problems or potential problems are identified weeks or months before they impact production. Performance, capacity, cache and cpu utilization and latency statistics delivered on a per volume basis. Even difficult to identify problems such as block misalignment can be identified.

Exportable results and even an executive summary area to help quickly justify when you do need to grow the environment. And more - and no agents needed for any of the telemetry.

All included as what we consider "Basic support"

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Anonymous Coward

Netapp's "OnCommand" mgmt tools are free mostly (although you do require an account on the Netapp support site, which customers should have anyway). Whether they're good or not is debatable. System Manager has come a long way but is basic when it comes to performance monitoring and backup scheduling, for that you will need to use Performance Advisor & Protection Manager (both part of the Unified Manager Core package). Herein lies Netapp's problem: they have too many disparate tools, each chopping and changing as to which tool handles what and on top of it all keep switching up marketing (DFM / Ops Manager / OnCommand...). It can get very confusing for end customers. That said, they are all free and they do seem in recent times to be moving toward System Manager being the hub mgmt tool, which isn't a bad thing.

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It appears that EMC and NetApp get some mention in this. I am curious about Hitachi. I keep hearing that they have the most solid hardware platform for Enterprise Storage but wonder about software management. Any input from the crowd?

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HDS software has nearly universally sucked forever. (I'm sure that'll register as a terrible example of grammar on any side of the Atlantic.) The 9900/USP/USPV/VSP are all rock-solid boxes that are a pain to configure but then run forever. There have been promises of better software for years and while they are better now they don't compare to the engineering found in the arrays they monitor and manage.

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Take the copies out of your production storage system

They sell you an enterprise storage system that needs basic management.

Than all kind of snapshot/clones/replication tools that needs more management + host side clients.

Your storage needs grow 30% a year mainly due to those copies. So now they sell you tools to "save" capacity like thin provisioning, compression deduplication and so on.. Those sometimes cost more money and require more management tools.

You have 100TB of net storage capacity while only 25TB of it is real production data.

Those tools are charged per TB so you pay for the 100TB although you really need only 25TB license.

You end up with growing expenses - now most of them on software and less on hardware, as hardware getting cheaper.

If you just took the copies out of your expensive production storage to an external system - most of your expenses are gone. Your production is now 25TB (keep the other 75TB for future use), and pay much less per TB to that external solution. Maybe now the compression, and deduplciation seem redundant. Throw them away from the production and save more money.

You end up with 2-tiers model - Tier-1 is the PRODUCTION TIER and Tier-2 is the COPY DATA TIER.

How about that?

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