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Aptare promises 'Web 2.0' storage management

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Aptare has released a new version of its storage resource management (SRM) app called StorageConsole 8 that adds SAN fabric component coverage.

SRM software fell into the doldrums a few years ago when it proved impractical to cover all the various Fibre Channel SAN arrays and fabric devices, filers and iSCSI storage network cards and arrays, and get resource usage data from them. Without a comprehensive cover of all the storage network devices, adapters and storage arrays the SRM apps couldn't provide an acceptable end-to-end picture of storage resource use. The suppliers fell away, with the lucky ones being acquired. HP nabbed AppIQ, for instance.

Aptare didn't start out as an SRM app developer. Instead it provided backup reporting, similar to Bocada, and has then expanded its reporting capabilities to the wider storage resource sphere. It has some 450 customers ranging from small and medium enterprises up to Fortune 500 corporations.

StorageConsole 8, which has been in development for two-and-a-half years, is meant to let sysadmins "proactively monitor their entire storage environment through one centralised Web 2.0 console," and does its job with an agentless design. Much of its two million new lines of code relates to SAN fabric device releases. It has also embraced HTML 5.0, with founder and CEO Rick Clark saying: "We're on the side of Steve Jobs," referring to Jobs' condemnation of Adobe's Flash.

What's new in 8.0? Aptare has added SAN fabric reporting with topology mapping, change management and performance reporting through interactive dashboards.

A main competitor is HP's Storage Essentials, the renamed and developed AppIQ technology. White says: "AppIQ is in theSRM 1.0 category; it's a fat client app and tries to boil the ocean. It requires agents on every host and different agents depending upon the domain being reported on. [Also] Storage Essentials has a quarter of our reporting capability."

Agents can be out of date a week after they are issued; the development of storage infrastructure components is so fast that there is a constant need to push out new agents. White mentions an oil company that switched to Aptare, saying HP was requesting an agent change every two-to-three weeks.

How does Aptare keep up? Clark said that with Aptare software the server executes CLI (Command Line Interface) instructions out to the storage environment, such as a QLogic HBA. If there is new QLogic firmware and the parsing breaks a rules engine in the software dials in to Aptare and pulls down a new version of the parsing rules. It's as if there is a parsing dictionary in the Aptare portal with parsing rules being distributed like anti-virus updates.

Clark contrasts StorageConsole use with its single pane of glass versus using multiple panes of glass from all the storage component vendors. But you can't dispense with the vendor's own management. Clark says: "Users wouldn't use StorageConsole to set up zoning in the fabric or a LUN in a NetApp array. You would use the vendor's own tools. We complement and augment the vendors' own tools, by providing over-arching report and management."

It looks like the SRM bet is being made again and that suppliers like Aptare are thinking that the storage world has become very much more complex in the last five years, with multi-core servers running apps in virtual machines which can transfer to other VMs in the same or different physical servers and need their storage access and quality-of-service to transfer with them. Today's world of virtualised, multi-core servers and SAN fabrics with thousands of ports, which are becoming virtualised, talking to thinly-provisioned and virtualised storage is becoming impossible to manage through multiple panes of glass.

Aptare's bet is that it can provide a better lens through which to monitor and manage virtual machine app-to-array-LUN storage resources than either system vendors like HP with Storage Essentials and individual vendors' tools for component management or overall management like NetApp's SANscreen. Waiting in the wings is VMware, which is likely to get its own SRM reporting and management capability at some stage. There's also Storage Fusion with its storage resource analytics in the cloud service.

It's all about the depth of the SRM tool, its component breadth and ability to keep up to date, its management usability and its ability to work with the hypervisors. ®

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