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One Stop Storage Management
That same approach is now being applied to storage with the arrival of Storage Management Portals (SMPs). SMPs are designed to consolidate all storage management functions into a single console, regardless of architecture, manufacturer, or operating system. These portals provide an end-to-end view of the storage environment and all its elements.
Functions monitored by SMPs include backup, restoration, dynamic provisioning, replication, and utilization. While they do not necessarily perform all the actions themselves, they do integrate with the specific software tools that monitor and manage the individual pieces of equipment or processes. Computer Associates' BrightStor Portal and IntelliStorage's Enterprise Storage Portal (ESP) are a couple of good examples that go a long way towards storage simplification.
But a single view might have a downside; in fact, some believe it could even turn out to be a liability, particularly in large or fragmented IT organizations. Consider this: the IT Director doesn't want to be alerted on a single file that fails to backup properly, but does want to be notified when backup SLAs are not being met. Similarly, the storage administrator at the Berlin office doesn't need to know when a file server in Boston has an overloaded disk.
In other words, too much information can be as bad as too little. So if the SMP attempts to consolidate the entire storage environment into a single view, it could actually be worse than having to access each piece of storage management software individually.
Role-based Views in SMPs
For this reason, Computer Associates has revamped its BrightStor product line to offer role-based views of the storage information to provide administrators with only the information they need. Those at high-levels of the hierarchy can immediately access the data they need without being bogged down in the day-to-day details of storage administration.
At the same time, those doing the heavy lifting can configure the portal to provide them with the ability to track most of the tasks they are immediately responsible for on one screen. Additionally, CIOs, help desk personnel, financial officers, and corporate executives can create their own role-based views of the organization's storage resources.
"It's no longer good enough for management software to provide a single view," says IDC's Elliot. "You need to have multiple views into the information and to define it in terms of the business perspective."
Room for Improvement
It is important to note that the SMP area is far from mature, and care needs to be taken in selecting a product that really meets one's needs. Criteria to consider when evaluating a product include whether it can manage your firm's existing hardware, whether it offers an open architecture for supporting future third-party products, whether it can access the proprietary features that storage vendors have built into their products, and whether it supports mobile (i.e. laptops) as well as fixed assets.
Existing SMPs are unlikely to have all the features listed above, so you need to closely evaluate what the vendor does currently offer and whether using a storage portal will significantly simplify the management of your existing and future storage infrastructure. If not, it might be wise to wait a little while and allow the industry to mature and the products to sufficiently develop.
This feature originally appeared on Enterprise IT Planet.