Managing the information store

By David Essex, Computer World |  Development

When UPMC Health System wanted to better manage storage and backups for a diverse array of computer systems across the company, the Pittsburgh-based health care provider decided to consolidate by building storage-area networks (SAN).

The SAN arrays and StorageWorks management software from Compaq Computer Corp. have helped ease management headaches, says Joe Furmanski, UPMC's manager of systems and planning. But in a multivendor-system environment, the new Compaq management tools still can't do it all.

"[StorageWorks] isn't across the line, and it isn't one robust tool," Furmanski says. "We're looking at [other] vendors to provide us true management software so it isn't little point products here and there."

Bringing in enterprise-class -- and often single-vendor -- storage subsystems helps bring order and manageability to growing storage requirements, IT managers say. But while the management software sold with these systems serves many key functions well, some tools may be lacking, and no tools are yet available that provide truly centralized control across all enterprise storage resources, say users and analysts.

"They're testing it out and finding that a lot of the storage management issues are still to be worked out," says Anne Skamarock, an analyst at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates Inc.

Mix-and-Match Management

UPMC built its Compaq SANs around legacy computers and storage, including Windows NT file servers, Digital Equipment Corp. VAXs with OpenVMS, Sun Solaris systems, IBM systems running variants of Unix, and OS/390 mainframes. The new system includes StorageWorks Enterprise Storage Arrays and Enterprise Modular Arrays.

The health care company originally introduced StorageWorks management software five or six years ago, when it added SCSI-attached storage devices to OpenVMS and NT systems, says Furmanski, who oversees 55 mixed-vendor Unix servers and several minicomputers and workstations. Jim Vellella, associate director of technical services and Furmanski's counterpart on NT systems, manages 240 Compaq ProLiant servers, most of which still use direct-attached SCSI storage.

The new SANs also play a role in managing backups. Two data centers in Pittsburgh hold 30TB of data between them, and UPMC uses 300 digital linear tape drives to fill nearly 8,000 tapes. The data center staffs (about 20 people in total) spend 40% of their time on storage management issues. "Most of the things we do are 24/7, so there aren't a lot of backup windows," says Furmanski.

"It's getting to be a lot of work for our people to do," Vellella adds.

The company also uses StorageWorks for SAN configuration, monitoring and alerts, and Mountain View, Calif.-based Veritas Software Corp.'s Backup Exec for backing up the NT servers. Vellella also uses network performance monitoring software from San Jose-based NetIQ Corp.

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