EMC Sets Its Sights on Automated Data Management

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EMC (NYSE: EMC) says its data center network, resource and storage management product portfolio has grown to the point where it’s possible for users to tie together disparate data center resources into a coherent whole that gets more business value out of corporate data.

The company sees its data center product lineup as akin to a combination of Google Maps, Traffic.com and the TomTom GPS system applied to your IT infrastructure to get a big picture map of the infrastructure, a real-time report on where the trouble is and which routes are affected, and an intelligent system to tell you how to circumvent the problem areas.

But getting to that point takes time and money.

Despite one of the longest recessions of the post-World War II era, data hasn’t stopped growing, and storage capacity continues to grow at a greater than 40 percent rate — even as the staff to manage all that data is shrinking. Further complicating matters, most enterprises don’t store all their data in one place — or server or network or system — but in multiple ones, using products from multiple vendors. So how can storage and data center managers possibly hope to keep all that data under control? EMC’s Resource Management Software team believes it has the answer.

The key, said Bob Quillin, senior director of product marketing for EMC’s Resource Management Software group, lies in automation, specifically automating routine, labor-intensive tasks, such as reporting and provisioning.

“It’s all about managing more with less — and automation helps customers manage more stored data with the current resources they have,” he said.

Data Center Automation Takes Time

While many organizations would love to automate the management of their entire data center — tomorrow — due to budgetary constraints that’s just not possible.

“The road to full IT automation is a journey,” Quillin acknowledged. “And we’re not expecting companies to be ready or able to invest in all EMC [data management] solutions at the same time. Nor are we suggesting customers rip and replace their current IT investments and implement the full EMC suite,” which is comprised of EMC ControlCenter, EMC Infra and EMC Smarts Storage Insights for Availability.

EMC recognizes “that different customers are at different stages of this automation journey,” said Quillin. “So our goal is to incrementally increase customers’ ability to achieve full data center automation by implementing the appropriate technologies over time, being mindful of their current management investments.”

The first stop on that automation journey? Storage management. And, it just so happens, EMC has a solution specifically tailored to do just that, the EMC ControlCenter.

As EMC boasts on the ControlCenter Web page, “with EMC ControlCenter, you can ‘see’ your entire network storage infrastructure (SAN, NAS, and host storage resources, including VMware and Symmetrix Virtual Provisioning), ‘know’ how your infrastructure is performing, and ‘do’ what’s necessary to ensure that service levels are met — all from a single console.” The result: “better performance, improved productivity, and reduced costs,” the company claims.

And because EMC ControlCenter works with a variety of storage products, from NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP), HDS, HP (NYSE: HPQ), IBM (NYSE: IBM) and others, managing multi-vendor environments, which are increasingly the norm, is not an issue. “ControlCenter collects information from a variety of different types of storage devices and aggregates that information, automatically, to provide a single view into the storage environment,” said Quillin.

And just about any size enterprise can benefit from the technology, he said. “Smaller companies have less people, so automation is critical for them.”

As to whether smaller businesses can afford ControlCenter, Quillin said they can. “All EMC solutions [not just ControlCenter but Infra and EMC Smarts Storage Insights for Availability] scale to the size of your environment,” he said. “So we’re not asking a small mom-and-pop shop or a mid-sized company to spend as much as a larger company.

“Everything scales to the size of your environment. So for the storage administration team, [the price would be determined by] how much storage they’re managing, how many terabytes are under storage management. If you want [a solution to] manage the whole data center, it would be [based on] the number of servers that you have.”

In addition to being affordable (or affordable according to EMC), EMC’s storage management solutions are designed to work out of the box and be up and running quickly (depending on the amount of customization required and the size of your storage infrastructure).

“We have solutions that can plug in and discover your environment in just a couple of hours,” said Quillin, though they can take a couple of weeks or months to be fully operational.

EMC also claims its data management solutions are self-maintaining and automatically adapt to changes in your network and storage configuration. “As your system continues to grow and change, the solution automatically adapts to expand what it monitors, what it’s reporting on,” said Quillin. “Therefore, you’re not always trying to re-configure and update it, nor do you need to bring in a consultant to do a forklift upgrade.

“The solution’s always modeling, understanding and discovering changes that are happening and then adapting,” he continued. “So if or when you add new storage, you add new networks and routers, you add new servers or VMware components, those are all discovered. It populates itself and starts monitoring them automatically.”

Ready for VMware

And speaking of VMware (NYSE: VMW) and virtualization, as companies continue to leverage virtual infrastructures, said Quillin, they will need “a solution that enables them to rapidly adopt those virtual technologies and manage them in a unified fashion, as opposed to managing physical and virtual environments separately.”

As luck would have it, EMC claims ControlCenter and its other data management technologies can do precisely that.

“We’ve really ingrained virtualization throughout our approaches, adapting our solutions to support virtualization, so you don’t need a whole new tool [or set of tools] to manage your data center,” said Quillin. “You can simply extend ControlCenter to also manage thin provisioning and storage virtualization. That is, you can connect it to VMware servers, and it will understand what storage they’re using.”

While Quillin reiterated that every organization can benefit from automation and EMC data management solutions, EMC is not expecting that “every customer is going to implement all solutions at once. Each customer is at a different point on the automation journey, and it is our goal to help them achieve the levels of automation for which they are prepared, working with their current investments,” he said.

However, by taking a unified approach to storage and data management, any organization, large or small, can reduce costs and complexity and increase efficiency, and do so affordably, he said.

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Jennifer Schiff
Jennifer Schiff
Jennifer Schiff is a business and technology writer and a contributor to Enterprise Storage Forum. She also runs Schiff & Schiff Communications, a marketing firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.

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