Enterprises are now well aware of the fact that to get the best value from their network storage it has to be managed effectively. The ideal solution is for all storage and associated applications and hardware to be managed from a central location but the sheer number of vendors and products on the market makes this nigh on impossible.
HP saw the need for a multi-vendor storage management solution a couple of years ago and so acquired AppIQ at the end of 2005 turning it into its Storage Essentials (SE). AppIQ was heavily into the SNIA’s SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification), which defines a common HAL-based interface allowing it to talk to any compliant storage module. Since then SE has grown into a fully fledged management product and we have the latest v5.1 of its Enterprise Edition on review.
SE is a modular product so can be easily customised to suit just about any requirement. The key differences between the Standard and Enterprise Editions are in license restrictions with the former targeting mid-range businesses with HP-centric networks. The latter is aimed at heterogeneous networks and so will work happily with the likes of Cisco, Brocade, QLogic and McDATA. SE can also manage any storage device that is SMI-S compliant and has a provider.
To get the best of Storage Essentials (SE) you need to have HP’s Systems Insight Manager (SIM) up and running as SE is launched from the SIM interface. You can run SE independently but we were advised that few existing users take this approach and HP doesn’t recommend doing this anyway. It’s not a perfect marriage and for element discovery it’s better to let SIM take on this chore. If you let SE do the discovery it won’t pass on any authentication details to SIM and these will need to be input manually.
Note also that where appropriate, hosts should have the SIM agent installed to get the best information out of them as there is no SE agent.
SE is easy to access as it is loaded from the SIM Tools menu and you can either select its home page or go directly to any of the installed plug-in modules. The SE home page presents a well designed interface offering a pile of chunky icons for each component, which are also reflected in a side bar as well. Once you’ve completed the discovery process you can view the network topology from the System Manager which provides a tidy map created automatically from the discovery process. It opens with a List view that shows domains and associated fabrics and elements along with their relationships with each other. Using the access and path menu options you can drill down further and view zones, persistent binding and LUN masks and find out more information about paths.
The Capacity Manager provides a similar map to the System Manager but some device icons will have pie charts next to them providing an at-a-glance view showing used and available capacity or for switches, the number of ports used. You can drill down deeper by selecting a device on the map to see more information on ports or server storage utilisation and the data can be presented in pie, line or bar charts. The Performance Manager delivers a very similar map view but places icons next to devices to show those that have performance data available. It’ll display information such as a switch port’s traffic throughput and you can pick a device that you want to monitor and set how frequently it should be queried.
The Provisioning Manager allows you to create and schedule tasks for managing SAN resources. Plenty of wizard-based help is on offer for zones, aliases and sets and you can also manage storage pools and volumes but be aware that all storage vendors are not the same and the capabilities of this module will depend on the array vendors you’re using. You also need to be mindful of SE’s LUN creation abilities as this effectively provides a secondary route into this task. For change management to be effective these should only be created from the switch’s own management interface.
To gather in-depth details on files you’ll need the File System Viewer which stores all collected information in an Oracle database. This can then be queried on any file related information such as filenames, sizes, creation data and so on. If you have HP ProLiant Storage Servers or NetApp filers you’ll be needing the NAS Manager plug-in which can discover them, map out IP and FC connections and provide real-time performance and resource monitoring. As we mentioned earlier, SE can manage and monitor storage resources for Oracle, Sybase and SQL Server databases but yet another optional plug-in brings Exchange into the mix. Usefully, you can license these with MAL (managed application license) packs which are not application specific.
Users of older versions of Symantec’s NetBackup will find the SE Backup Manager a handy tool. Reporting has never been one of NetBackup’s strong points and this module has the ability to ferret out a lot of useful information about backup and restore activities. However, at present, this component only supports NetBackup and, more recently, HP’s own Data Protector although we were advised that more will be added if demand dictates.
The diverse nature of most enterprise storage networks requires a versatile solution for them to be managed and monitored effectively. Storage Essentials has the ability to deliver these facilities and the optional plug-ins certainly make it easy to customise it. It’s best run alongside HP’s Systems Insight Manager but its lineage means Storage Essentials has the capabilities to deal with all the major storage vendors.
The fact that it’s recommended that SE be managed from SIM (System Insight Manager), makes it best suited to networks with a predominantly HP foundation. That said, the storage hardware support offered by SE is one of the most extensive on the market, and the multitude of add-on options allows it to be easily customised.