SMB - Remote storage management

Start stacking up a dozen or more servers, throw in some network storage, add a remote site, and suddenly you have a storage management mess. Enter CommVault.

Growing companies must break through many barriers, and technology provides barriers aplenty. Moving from a small company storage model to a medium company storage model takes effort, planning and more manpower. For those fighting to get a better handle on their storage resources, CommVault wants to throw you a lifeline.

If you don't know CommVault, don't feel bad. It focuses on data management for medium and large (including huge) companies. Those without a lot of storage don't need much help, but start stacking up a dozen or more servers, throw in some network storage, add a remote site, and suddenly you have a storage management mess. Enter CommVault.

Riding the "managed services" wave, CommVault requires a server on your site running its software to handle a variety of management reporting details for you. Its newest product and service offering just hit the streets. Called ROMS for Remote Operations Management Support, this service leverages a mix of CommVault's management services with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools to provide a management dashboard via the Web.

I spoke with Robert Brower, director of Worldwide Professional Services, about ROMS. "We have a direct connection to the customer's data site. When a system sends an alert of any kind, we can grab the tracking logs to get all the information necessary. We use intelligent reporting to filter out nuisance notifications, so we don't drown the customer in data."

The "CommServer" on the customer's premise collects data from software running on your other servers. You can put CommServers in multiple locations and monitor everything from one ROMS Web dashboard.

Of course, when you start talking multiple servers and multiple locations, you start talking about large and medium sized companies. Brower says "about 20 per cent of our direct customers have 25 or fewer servers." You can also get CommVault services through resellers and hardware vendors like Dell, Hitachi, and NetApp. Brower said its smallest direct customer has about 10 servers, but Dell and others may have smaller installations.

While 10 servers sounds like a lot to small companies, many not-so-large firms find themselves at that number without realizing it happened. You get a few servers for inhouse applications, host your own e-mail and Web servers, add a test server for Microsoft patches and Web page development, and suddenly you have 20 of the suckers stacked here and there. It seems crazy to have a server for every four employees (25 servers for a 100 person firm), but it happens every day. Companies doing serious Web business, like e-commerce, will often have more servers than employees.

Haphazard server growth means haphazard planning, management oversight, and monitoring. When you wake up one day and realize you're running from server problem to server problem, you start thinking some type of management would be nice. That's when you need a CommVault or other remote management and support company.

CommVault's pricing varies according to a variety of factors, as it almost always does in technology, but the basics are straightforward. A CommServer license starts at US$2,000, and you can add the monitoring with ROMS for US$500, or 25 per cent of your CommServer license fee. A license for each external server running the monitoring software costs US$6 per month.

Storage management has been a hot topic for years. Even the earliest usable network management system, SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), watched details like the amount of storage space available on a disk and errors reading or writing to a disk. Now the push is to organize your files and storage, eliminate duplications and adjust more quickly to changing storage needs. CommVault may not be able to do all that today, but like other storage management companies, it has these tasks and more on the to-do list.

Even if you only have two servers today, you have a storage management issue, because each file you search for on Server A is on Server B and vice versa. Getting organized and planning ahead is tough, but it will save you time and money in the future.

You may remember those words of advice when you're standing in the middle of a big storage mess. If you find yourself there, realize there are many companies starting to offer management tools for storage. And if you have 10 or more servers, or remote sites with servers but no employees able to manage those servers, a company like CommVault may be your new best friend.

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James E. Gaskin

Network World
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