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Issue Date: June 2007

EMC Links ControlCenter to VMware

14 June 2007
Tim Stammers

EMC is set to ship the first update to its ControlCenter SRM tool in three years, adding VMware support as well as addressing the product's reputation for complexity and unfriendliness.
While the company stressed that it has been listening hard to ControlCenter user groups that have been set up over the last couple of years, it was keener to talk about the VMware support that will be in version 6.0 of ControlCenter, slated to ship at the end of June.
"Without a doubt that is the most important new feature. Now we support VMware comprehensively - just as well as we do any other environment," said Jon Siegal, senior product marketing manager at EMC.
The current version of ControlCenter cannot see storage allocated to virtual servers. Version 6.0 will eliminate this blind spot and report on the properties and disk capacity allocated to and used by both VMware physical host servers and guest virtual servers. It will provision capacity to a host VMware server, which will then itself allocate capacity to virtual servers, Siegal said. As Siegal pointed out: "There are a lot of customers using VMware."
And there are a lot more to come, according to Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Bob Laliberte, who said there are many large businesses that have not yet adopted the server virtualisation technology. "VMware usage is about to hit like a tidal wave, and right now EMC is one of few suppliers with storage software that can support it," he said.
Dennis Martin, president at analyst Demartek said: "I am not aware of any other SRM products that support VMware. But I have got to believe that everybody is looking at it. They would be silly not to."
VMware just happens to be 100% owned by EMC, but an EMC spokesman said that it had no greater access to VMware's technology than other storage software vendors. "With ControlCenter 6.0 VMware support, there is nothing we have done that any of our SRM competitors could not also do. It was accomplished using all standard APIs and developer toolkits," a spokesman said. EMC also made its usual claim that VMware is being run as an independent business in order to maintain its neutrality.
ControlCenter is a suite of products that covers a range of storage management functions, some of which only involve the management of EMC's disk arrays - so-called device management - and some of which monitor, manage and report on third-party gear.
Although EMC claims that over 7000 customers have bought ControlCenter licenses, it is not clear how many are using the software simply as device managers for EMC's Symmetrix and Clariion arrays. As Siegal admitted, the huge majority of Symmetrix's are managed using ControlCenter, rather than via the alternative command-line interface.
The last new release of ControlCenter shipped in June 2004, when version 5.2 of the software suite increased the coverage of third-party hardware and software, and added an SMI-S 1.0 interface. Those updates were unlikely to have answered some of the complaints being made by customers at that time. One survey of Fortune 1000 shops found customers complaining about limited functionality and bugs in the software, and during the past few years analysts have suggested that the product is not fully polished.
EMC argued that since then it has been issuing bi-annual service packs that have added a lot of features, and that last year it launched SAN Advisor as a new ControlCenter module. It also said that its own surveys have found that 90% of its customers are satisfied with the software.
A dozen ControlCenter user groups have been set up by EMC over the last two years. "In the go-to-market process we have taken the time to ensure customer satisfaction," said Siegal.
"They have been listening more closely to customer recommendations," said Laliberte.
Close on the heels of the VMware support in terms of importance is more flexible reporting, according to EMC. The coming version of ControlCenter is the first to allow customers to create their own queries to its repository of configuration and usage data. EMC says it has also for the first time provided full access to those repositories for third-party software suppliers. That means that data from ControlCenter can be fed into CMDB configuration management databases or high level framework systems management tools.
What were multiple repositories have been consolidated into a single database. How many repositories were present before "depends on how you define a repository. Really there were only two," said Siegal. The same goes for the number of host agents - the two used by version 5.2 are replaced by one agent for ControlCenter 6.0.
"Enterprise and file level reporting by the StorageScope and FileLevel Reporter modules have been integrated into one interface. That file level reporting was based on software gained when EMC bought Astrum Software in 2003. According to Siegal, Astrum was the only software gained through acquisition that needed to be integrated with the rest of ControlCenter. The Prisa SAN management software remains a separate product to ControlCenter.
ControlCenter 5.2 is already able to manage disk arrays made Hitachi.
EMC has not added any Hitachi functions to the new release, but it has simplified some of what was there. "Now you can mask a Hitachi array and provision space across multiple domains in a single operation. That is on a par with Hitachi's own software," said Siegal.
The reason why EMC can do that is that around three years ago it swapped management APIs with Hitachi, as well as with Hewlett-Packard.
No such deal was ever struck with IBM, so until the SMI-S standard for management APIs becomes more comprehensive, ControlCenter is unlikely to be able to provision space on IBM arrays quite so easily. That could be some while yet.
ControlCenter 5.2 sported an SMI-S 1.0 interface, and version 6.0 features the latest SMI-S 1.1 interface. EMC has stepped up its support for SMI-S by including the 1.1 interface in its interoperability and support matrix. "Previously, we let users know of our SMI-S 1.0 interoperability, but we did not list out specific devices," the company said.
"A lot of customers are now using SMI-S for monitoring and reporting," Siegal said.
Over 80% of customers are using version 5.2 of ControlCenter, but EMC said that it had ensured easy migration to 6.0 from ControlCenter 5.1 as well as from 5.2. "It is pretty much the same amount of migration work from both versions. In both cases we are moving from XML flat-file repositories to a new database," said Siegal. "We spent a lot of time making sure the migration is smooth. That feedback was loud and clear."
Version 6.0 will work with 'mixed' agents from earlier ControlCenter editions.
Source: Computergram

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