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Come April, IBM plans to release three revamped Tivoli software products that will include wider support for various storage hardware and improved system monitoring tools.

Big Blue will roll out version 5.2 of the Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) and version 1.2 of both the Tivoli Storage Area Network Manager (TSANM) and Tivoli Storage Resource Manager (TSRM) products. IBM said that it will officially announce the products at its Developer Works Live conference in New Orleans early next month, but the software will not ship until late April.

IBM likes to say that is has added "self-managing functionality" to the Tivoli software. This jargon means little beyond the addition of a few automated tools and some administrative alerts. This approach to storage software is similar to that taken by rivals EMC, CA, HP and Veritas.

TSM is IBM's offering for data back-up and archiving tasks. With version 5.2, IBM has taken care of some cosmetic details with a new GUI for the client software . Beyond this, the company has also added in support for more of what is calls software modules. Customers can now use TSM in conjunction with Oracle running on an IBM xSeries server and Informix 64-bit with Solaris. The new software will also work with Linux on IBM's zSeries mainframes. This product will cost $600 per processor.

IBM first introduced the TSANM product in the third quarter of last year year, pitching it as the answer for doing hardware discovery -- servers, switches and HBAs -- in a storage area network (SAN). Laura Sanders, vice president of storage management products at IBM, said close to 50 customers purchased the product in the fourth quarter, which is a fair number given users' apparent reticence for this type of product.

With the new version of TSANM, IBM has added support for Red Hat and SuSE Linux agents. The product will also tie into the storage management console for Windows XP and work with iSCSI devices and Cisco switches. IBM charges $500 per processor for this software.

Some of the more interesting advancements at IBM come in the update to TSRM. As of last December, IBM started supporting AIX 5.1, DB2 and Veritas' Volume Manager software. Now, it has also added in automated file system expansion for AIX and Solaris. In addition, IBM can now do LUN masking and more refined system reporting on its own Shark storage server. This product will cost $700 per processor.

Virtual Reality

Like any storage software vendor, IBM likes to tout all of the automated tools and "virtualization" functions in its products, but unlike most of its rivals, the company does not expect users to snatch up complex SAN software at a quick clip.

This practical stance could indicate that IBM actually listens to users who tend to have enough problems making their SAN function without adding as yet untested software into the mix. On the other hand, of course, IBM could just be covering up a technology gap between its products and those of say EMC, which Sanders described as "feature rich."

IBM, after all, has been known to fall behind on storage technology.

Storage Tank, for example, has been pushed back for so long that Sanders remarked, "That's the smile I always see," when she informed us the technology won't arrive until "sometime this year." When Storage Tank does finally arrive it will only allow users to create large pools of storage out of IBM hardware, but Sanders assured us that support for other vendors' hardware will come one day.

In a move similar to Sun Microsystems, IBM may be planning to unveil a provisioning server to complement its software line, according to Paul Ellis, program director of storage marketing at IBM.

Sun has a virtualization server that runs its N1 software and tells data what path it should take and how it should be provisioned in a network of multi-vendor gear. Ellis said he did not want to step on the IBM hardware team's toes and announce anything early but added that IBM is considering a specialized server for these types of tasks.®

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