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Managing storage has never been more complex, nor has it ever been more critical to daily operations and business strategy. Everything that once resided in file cabinets, desk drawers, and bankers' boxes must now be instantly accessible from anywhere, at any time.
At the same time, storage resources are continually becoming more diverse, especially with Storage Area Networks (SAN) and Network Attached Storage (NAS) supplanting direct attached storage in many environments. On top of this, the proliferation of device types makes it necessary to back up laptops and PDAs in addition to the usual array of network devices.
While each storage vendor has its own set of tools for managing its devices, a newer trend lies in taking a page from the network and systems management arena by bringing management of a diverse set of devices into a single management console.
Network Management Model
IT challenges such as bandwidth, uptime, and utilization led to the emergence of network and systems management (NSM) tools like IBM's Tivoli, BMC Software's PATROL, and Hewlett-Packard's OpenView. Each of these tools provides a single console to view all aspects of the network, regardless of vendor or platform. That's the concept, anyway; in practice, administrators often wind up having to assemble several management tools to gather all the information and control they need.
"Typically, you have a multiple OS environment that demands many element managers, hardware/OS tools, and automation tools for production control and scheduling," says Paul Lehman, Senior Vice President for Network Services, Affiliated Computer Systems, Inc. "Managers need to write down the biggest thing that can impact their operation the most and see who is best at that."
Still, while these management consoles do not yet offer a complete solution to all management problems, they do provide a high-level view and make it considerably easier to manage a network.
"One of the biggest factors for the [NSM] leaders is integration between the products — seamless management rather than having to pull up a number of consoles," says Stephen Elliot, Senior Analyst at IDC (Framingham, MA). "This decreases the number of screens an admin needs to look at."