CNT offers one ounce of prevention

Troubleshooting for long distance storage

You do remember CNT, don’t you? In brief, CNT makes storage hardware and accompanying services to build storage networks that span multiple sites.

Although CNT offers a variety of storage products, of its own or as a reseller for other major vendors, it’s fair to say that the company's roots are in connecting heterogeneous storage solutions over long distance links.

CNT had a busy year in 2003 with its acquisition of director-class switch vendor Inrange Technologies. It also brought to market the Ultranet Edge 3000, a smart, very compact device that routes storage traffic from mainframe and open systems across WANs.

Obviously, WAN links are the most critical segment of a storage network, being the point where multiple vendors and technologies converge. Appropriately, a cloud is used in diagrams to denote the WAN. In the cloud, network performance and latency are as inconsistent as the weather, only even less predictable.

Furthermore, to cross the WAN those bits have to go through yet another layer of connectivity, such as ATM, Dark Fiber, IP, or SONet, to complete their journey -- a passage that is unknown in the relatively safe waters of a campus LAN.

Routers, such as the CNT's Edge 3000, help a company reliably push data across the WAN, but when something goes wrong at either side of that connection, storage administrators may have a hard time identifying the malfunction and forging a remedy.

Distance is the obvious obstacle. Most remote departments are staffed with operating skills only, which can make a proper diagnosis of problems difficult to achieve. Remote diagnostic tools would be appropriate, but most management applications have a myopic line of sight that is limited to single areas of expertise, such as the SAN island, or the OS, or the connectivity protocol.

As a consequence, conventional SAN management software can very well detect something is wrong somewhere, but may fall short of pinpointing the exact cause, which business applications may be affected, and how best to respond.

CNT is out to fix this detection shortcoming. It believes things could be easier for storage administrators with new management software that should bring more clarity to identifying problems on storage networks. The newborn software is called inVSN Storage Network Manager, pronounced “in vision."

CNT plans to offer separate inVSN versions, with the initial version, available now, targeting open systems, and a mainframe edition to arrive in Q2.

The new product runs on Microsoft Windows 2000 servers and comes with a range of ambitious objectives, such as reducing network downtime, automatically remedying failures according to built-in rules, and in general speeding up the process of troubleshooting and getting the network back up.

The inVSN product provides these functions with a built-in awareness of each application data path, so that the business impact of errors affecting any device on the network can be assessed immediately.

The open systems edition of inVSN starts in the $6,000 to $10,000 range, and the mainframe edition will cost you $25,000 or more -- not a bad price to pay if it can reduce downtime of business-critical applications.