Storage Essentials: HP's AppIQ technology

Storage Essentials: HP's AppIQ technology

There was a group of storage resource management (SRM) products around the millennium with high hopes and ambitious product development roadmaps. The hopes got dashed and the roadmaps discarded or diverted. Firms like Softek had to radically revise their plans because SRM simply didn't take-off. As the US marketeers would have it, SRM didn't gain traction. There were too many storage developments for an all-embracing, single pane of SRM glass to cope with. Also, and possibly key to the failure of SRM Mark I, there was the need to have individual device APIs for device discovery, state monitoring and management.

AppIQ is a mark two SRM company. It saw the SNIA's common storage management interface specification (SMI-S) developing and saw that it was a fundamentally different approach, a HAL-based one. Much like Microsoft's Windows NT which interposed a hardware abstraction layer (HAL) between itself and individual devices, AppIQ's technology uses a HAL between its code and individual storage devices. This storage HAL is SMI-S.

AppIQ's code talks to storage devices by SMI-S interfaces. The device supplier provides a device SMI-S provider, a customer piece of code that takes device control and monitoring logic and adds an SMI-S wrapper around it.

When AppIQ's product sends SMI-S discovery messages around a storage network (Fibre Channel) these individual device SMI-S interfaces answer.

AppIQ only has to write a single device interface (in principle) to communicate with all SMI-S-compliant storage devices.

HP needed to offer a better multi-vendor storage management product. It already licensed the AppIQ technology and, in a classic Remington move, liked the company so much it bought it. Now it has released Storage Essentials as its storage management product. It is a terrific piece of code with the ability to discover, monitor and manage storage devices and drill down to port and drive level.

Not least of its appeal is that it is not a stand-alone management product but built to fit in an entire layered system management stack from HP.

The AppIQ people's ability to deal with SMI_S is evidenced by them having written SMI-S interfaces for NetApp filers, Engenio arrays and IBM's Shark. The SNIA developed the SMI-S standard. WysDM's CTO, Jim McDonald, said: "SMI-S is mainly focussed on provisioning storage arrays."

The rub

SMI-S support is mostly for storage arrays at the moment. ADIC has just announced that its Scalar 12000 is the first tape library to achieve SNIA certification under the SMI-S standard. ADIC states 'SMI-S support means that IT departments using any Storage Resource Management (SRM) tool that supports the specification's tape library profiles can discover and manage their Scalar i2000 libraries in any location."

Have a single pane of glass product like Storage Essentials is as valuable as the coverage of the pane of glass. Currently what you can't manage with Storage Essentials are any tape libraries at all, except the Scalar i2000.

You can't manage any wide area file system (WAFS) products. In any case you would need an interaction with an equivalent 'Network Essentials'-type product to do so, to bring in the routers involved. Enter the HP ProCurve group and SNMP ideas. The ProCurve Group is talking to the AppIQ group.

You can't currently manage backup products. There is no SMI-S certification for backup products.

You can't manage VSANs. You can't manage iSCSI devices.

There are probably other storage devices and applications that you can't manage either.

Changes coming

This is going to change. EMC's ControlCenter already supports the management of tape libraries through SMI-S. Gavin Tweedie of the AppIQ group in HP said: "We hope to have additional support for Cisco VSANs shortly. We're working with Intel to develop SMI-S interface for iSCSI. We hope to have a mature provider in 2006."

He also indicated that support is being added for backup products and more tape libraries, such as Sun ones.

Tweedie said support of storage applications such as replication and snapshotting is a weak area: "One of our strategies is around protection management."

What we are seeing here is the build-out of a powerful SRM product to provide an integrated view from storage applications to the spindle, and to the tape drive.

There is no information lifecycle management (ILM) functionality involved in the APPIQ technology. But we can see how ILM is a storage application which could/would use Storage Essentials facilities for its data monitoring and data moving operations.

There are indications that a unified security model for server and storage management with single sign-on is under development.

It is still very early days in the mark two SRM area but there is a lot going on and more good things are going to come out of HP's Storage Essentials product. It's single pane of glass is going to get bigger and more powerful in scope. SMI-S seems already to have unstoppable momentum as the storage management interface standard. Well done the SNIA.

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