Layered Storage Monitoring Tools

If you’re a big XIV fan, one of the things you might love about it is the built-in (i.e. ‘free’) monitoring tools that are really easy to use.

Also the xivtop utility which will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used ‘top’ on linux or UNIX systems.

But for many others in the non-XIV world, layered monitoring tools are a pain in the wallet and also a pain in the administrative butt.

I’m talking EMC Control Center, HP Storage Essentials, and yes I have to admit it, Tivoli Storage Productivity Center. In an earlier blog I quoted Michael Hartung “Hardware eventually fails; Software eventually works” and I’ve been wondering about that in relation to layered monitoring. In the 2000’s layered tools were de rigeur – part of the Gartner vision of storage management, but the tools were pretty raw.

While I’m sure a lot of people get a lot of value from them, somehow they never fully realized the vision of being both comprehensive and yet easy to use. Is it going too far to suggest that the folks who got the most value out of these kinds of tools in the 2000’s were the EDS’s or IBM Global Services of the world, who needed buttoned down processes (and ways to measure and bill customers)?

Here’s a TPC screenshot, of setting filters to report performance.

These big tools do of course do a lot more than the XIV monitoring tools do, but perhaps therein lies the problem. By seeking to cover such a broad and comprehensive set of functions they are inevitably complex. The XIV tools on the other hand probably give you 90% of what you want, with only 10% of the effort.

It’s not all bad for the big tools of course. I have had a TPC customer tell me they simply couldn’t manage without TPC, but there are also stories from the other side of the fence.

One ECC customer issued an RFP that said any storage offered must be manageable by ECC. We suggested they ask themselves some hard questions about how many man-hours a month they were spending administering ECC itself, and also look at the actual tangible value they were deriving from ECC. This customer was bold enough to challenge their own assumptions and in the end they decided to abandon ECC and move to XIV and use native monitoring tools.

An HP customer I spoke to recently mentioned HP Storage Essentials – they told me they evaluated it but found it too complicated – and this is a skilled and experienced enterprise storage admin guy talking.

I am also aware of a TPC customer who through staff turnover and lack of training, and some technical incompatibilities ended up pushing TPC into a corner and barely using it, and another who complained that even after a week long training course they still found it complicated.

As a result, I generally try to make it clear to customers that tools like these are not for dabblers – they require some real commitment and regular use to get real value from them. But that might be changing.

There is a version of TPC that I do particularly like. TPC Basic Edition. It’s very cheap (sorry – very good value). It doesn’t do performance monitoring, but it does do space-capacity planning. It’s a much more useful reworking of the previously not very useful TPC Limited Edition (once also called something like TPC for Devices?). Finally they’ve got it right, with some nice functions for not much cost:

  • SAN-related asset discovery and reporting
  • Overall storage space used/unused reporting
  • Detailed space usage by individual host/NAS/hypervisor (without double counting)
  • Relationships between volume spaces and hosts

But now there is yet another version of TPC to think about.

TPC for Disk Midrange Edition:

  • Dynamic end-to-end topology viewer
  • Storage Area Network (SAN)-wide asset and capacity reporting
  • Performance reporting and monitoring for IBM System Storage™ DS3000, IBM System Storage DS4000™, and IBM System Storage DS5000 series devices, including SAN Volume Controller environments
  • Lightweight client to collect host asset, capacity, and connectivity information

TPC for Disk Midrange Edition differs from TPC for Disk as follows:

  • Can only be used to report on IBM’s entry level and midrange storage disk products (DS3000, DS4000, and DS5000). But can now also be used to report on these devices in an SVC environment (including performance monitoring of the SVC).
  • Licensed based on how many head units + disk trays you have.
  • Will be cheaper than TPC for Disk full licensing, especially in environments with large drives, but still likely to be in a different category to less functional performance tools like EMC Navisphere Analyzer for example.


2 Responses

  1. Hi.

    I want to ask you about generic tools for a SVC san admin to work with. I know about fcinfo for MS and Solaris. SanSurfer and HBAnywhere, and datapath in SDD DSM.

    Can you recommend any other tools that can be used to do client reporting (e.g. alternative to emcreports/hostgrab) that can be used on any platform and HBA type?



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