IBM Corp has made a major rework to its SRM software suite, using the SMI-S standard to boost the cross-vendor support of the software – at least where it can.
The rework to IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center is the first update in fourteen months, and shifts the product from version 2.1 to version 3.1, with a significant change to its architecture.
Some of the major features of the update are the integration of what were disparate modules into a single platform, a new ability to monitor fabric and even third-party disk array performance, a integrated topological SAN view, broader product support, and role-based administration rights.
It was good already, and IBM keep chipping away at making it easier to use – so that lowers management costs, said Joe Clabby, analyst at Summit Strategies. IBM cited research that shows that storage administration involves the highest labor costs in the data center.
PC 3.1 still involves optional modules, but IBM does not like to hear the product described as a suite, because that might make customers think that it is still the collection of separate tools that it was before the update. The integration now ties the elements together via a common repository, user interface, reporting engine, and SAN topology view, creating a much more powerful tool overall.
For third-party disk arrays, PC 2.1 could only report on their capacity usage. Now, PC 3.1 can provide information about the performance of disk drives and other elements for any array with a software interface than has implemented the appropriate part of the SMI-S specification.
To pass an SMI-S conformance test, devices do not need to implement the entire ratified SMI-S specification. Vendors have implemented different parts of the standard. So how many arrays sport SMI-S interfaces that PC 3.1 can use to monitor their performance? Actually there’s fairly good consistency between the big vendors. HP and EMC are covered, said Jamie Gruener, IBM marketing manager. When other vendors’ arrays get the right SMI-S interfaces, PC 3.1 will also be able to monitor their performance.
But elsewhere, SMI-S appears not to have delivered standardized means of linking the software to even IBM’s own hardware, let alone third-party gear.
PC 3.1 introduces support for IBM’s DS4000 array, which was not supported by PC 2.1. The older software did however support IBM DS6000 and DS8000 arrays, which suggests that that the 14-month old DS4000 has only just gained an SMI-S interface. Either that, or PC 3.1 is not even using SMI-S for this particular function.
PC 3.1 also introduces the ability to discover tape libraries, but only to two IBM libraries – the 3584 and 3494 – and not to any other libraries, IBM or otherwise. The extension to the SMI-S specification that covers tape is still only in development.
Gruener said about SMI-S development in general: There’s expectations, and then there’s real-world expectations.
Although sales of SRM software are still growing very fast, some analysts have said that SRM software in general has disappointed customers. Gruener said: One of the biggest challenges that all SRM suppliers are facing is to make the installation and set-up of SRM easier. All the vendors are working on that – it’s a big issue. PC 3.1 involves only one CD, whereas PC 2.1 in some instances involved tens of CDs, IBM said.
Another issue is making sure you get consistent support across multiple vendors’ hardware. That’s a work-in-progress.