As is true with most new technologies, the solutions for application awareness today are fragmented and take a number of different approaches. The approach you take, if you decide to dive in at such an early stage, depends on the level of automation and standardization you’re looking for and the types of applications you want to serve.
CreekPath and AppIQ take a standards-based approach, but concentrate more on visibility than automation. They argue that you can’t do true application-centric storage or ILM without knowing exactly how your applications interact with storage and the SAN, and lots of storage managers are just not ready to cede control to an automated solution. If application visibility across a heterogeneous SAN is a top goal, however, these can be excellent solutions.
CreekPath’s Koclanes says, “The key is to discover and understand each application’s entire storage supply chain … Then you can monitor that application and … work out inefficiencies and get some of the cost out of those service levels. Or you can see that you’re not as able to get the right performance out of the app as you thought and have to configure things differently.”
AppIQ takes a similar approach. “With AppIQ you can see exactly what applications will be impacted if an individual switch or array goes offline,” says Tom Rose, the company’s vice president of marketing.
AppIQ and CreekPath offer modules for specific applications — such as Oracle, Microsoft Exchange, and Sybase — in addition to an overall storage management platform. Both also provide some amount of automated provisioning based on service level policies. But their real strength is visibility.
If you’re willing to take the leap into an automated approach, products from ADIC, IBM, and Maranti Networks allow storage administrators to divide storage into tiers based on performance, reliability, and availability features, such as mirroring and fail-over. Applications or groups of applications can be assigned service levels that are matched to the appropriate storage tiers. Provisioning can then be automated based on application, and administrators can implement policy-based data replication and migration across storage tiers. ADIC and Maranti products also allow SAN bandwidth to be reserved for real-time and business-critical applications during periods of fabric congestion.
Aside from handling different functions, vendors also approach application awareness from different parts of what CreekPath calls the “storage supply chain.” Most of the above solutions are primarily host-based, but Maranti provides its services at the fabric and port level through its CoreSTOR network storage controllers. Proponents of fabric-centered services applaud these products’ fast performance and SAN visibility, but obviously you need to buy Maranti hardware to make them work.
HDS combines its host-based HiCommand storage management product, which uses AppIQ technology, with its TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform, a robust, high-performance array that can also provide virtualization and services to storage at the array level.
EMC has taken still another tack with its acquisition of Documentum, a file-based content management solution for handling unstructured content from a variety of applications. Documentum facilitates application of service levels and migration policies to file-based data at a very granular level, which is valuable for meeting compliance requirements.