The Pending Convergence of Storage, Server, and Application Management

Storage management, application management, and server management tools will increasingly link together as management software vendors explore adjoining markets based on recent industry acquisitions.
Written by Jamie Gruener, Contributor

Storage management, application management, and server management tools will increasingly link together as management software vendors explore adjoining markets based on recent industry acquisitions.

On December 19, 2002, storage management market leader VERITAS announced its intention to purchase application performance management vendor Precise Software. The same day, VERITAS also said it would acquire Jareva Technologies, a start-up focused on data center automation and server provisioning software.

The two acquisitions represent VERITAS’s goal of becoming a broader infrastructure management player. They also represent a trend—vendors will strive to provide integrated management platforms that will join application performance, server management, and storage management.

Enterprises have faced level-funded or decreasing budgets while managing more infrastructures with less staff. Data center automation products that meld traditional point products—which once handled application performance, server, and storage management—will grow in 2003. VERITAS and large system vendors like IBM, HP, and Sun will lead the charge. But customers will likely remain skeptical about vendor initiatives until 2004.

Trend Impact

Today, larger storage and server vendors provide management products that manage either storage or server environments¾with a wall between the two environments. However, large enterprises and many mid-sized companies continue to base buying decisions on infrastructure where administrators manage both servers and storage.

The convergence of application, storage, and server management follows broader market dynamics driven by IT executives. These executives realized they must stem the tide of infrastructure sprawl of servers and storage systems with better management. Eliminating mundane, manual tasks using provisioning and automation software is a growing trend in server and storage management.

The January 2003 Yankee Group Enterprise Computing & Networking report entitled “Server and Storage Automated Management Will Help Provision the Data Center in 2003” suggests that storage and server provisioning tasks create significant labor costs, which will be reduced using automation tools in the future.

Some form of service-based computing will gain momentum in the latter half of this decade. Most commonly, utility computing and utility storage management designs will establish the use of computing and storage infrastructure as services for applications. Each large system vendor has announced aggressive initiatives to migrate customers there in the long term. These include Sun’s N1 initiative, IBM’s Computing OnDemand, and HP’s Utility Data Center.

The vendors’ ability to garner customer mind share over the next two years will drive the success of these individual initiatives. This will be challenging, considering the broad number of large system and management vendors interested in the infrastructure management market.

VERITAS is not the first storage vendor to take an active interest in application management. BMC has marketed itself as having “Application-Centric Storage Management.” Although the positioning provided a competitive advantage at a visionary level, BMC has not successfully translated that forward-thinking into storage management market share. Ideally, customers need a clear way to provision, manage, and automate how applications interact with networks, servers, and storage systems.

Although the industry recognizes that application-aware storage and server management tools are increasingly necessary, most customers today focus on assessing their existing environments¾not looking forward to the next great automation trend. Enterprises must consider the ramifications of this convergence; determine steps to remain competitive; and embrace it to improve the efficiency of IT management. The notion of corporate financial accountability for use of applications, servers, and storage remains attractive to customers.

But, in 2003, the path is not clear. VERITAS and others hope to help.

VERITAS is straddling two significant trends with these acquisitions. First, it extends its reach beyond storage software into the adjacent application performance market. The Precise acquisition enables VERITAS to ensure that mission-critical applications such as SAP, Oracle, BEA, and Microsoft Exchange run faster with less downtime. Precise also had its own storage resource management software that fills a gap for VERITAS.

By acquiring Jareva, VERITAS could actively link its core expertise in storage management with the nascent storage automation and provisioning market. This means an IT administrator could someday set more intelligent, broader policies about applications when he or she loads software on a server. VERITAS won’t be alone here, but the company has shown foresight linking the two environments.

Bottom Line

Vendor Recommendations:

  • VERITAS should complete these two mergers rapidly, delivering a new vision within the first half of 2003. Vendors should gain customer interest and attract attention over the next several years. If VERITAS integrates the Precise and Jareva assets poorly, the company might be unable to compete in these markets. This could even hinder its success in its core storage management market. Good execution will make VERITAS a force to reckon with.
  • HP, IBM, Sun, and EMC should get ready for a battle. If successful, VERITAS will increasingly pressure system vendors such as HP, IBM, and Sun to differentiate and deliver tangible products. This also poses significant new challenges for EMC, which has shared the storage management market leadership with VERITAS.
Enterprise Recommendations:
  • Customers must re-evaluate the relationships between management strategies, applications, and server/storage infrastructure. 2003 should be a time of assessment for enterprises, as they consider how to better link and manage applications and their underlying server and storage hardware.
  • Enterprises should be conservative in short-term deployments of data center utility and automation software. Customers must choose their vendors well, based on pre-determined criteria that will allow flexibility and prototyping and avoid vendor lock-in strategies.
The Yankee Group originally published this article on 24 January 2003.

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