Enterprise Storage<br>CommVault Builds Internet-Era Storage Management Software

When several of today’s most popular storage management software programs were written about ten years ago, Windows was not the ubiquitous operating system it is today. Few people knew about the Internet, and the concept of storage area networking didn’t exist. For that reason, most of these programs were naturally designed and built for Unix and other non-Windows operating systems.

As the role of Windows and the Internet increased, these programs were ported to Windows. That approach works fine now, but analysts agree it may cause problems in the future.

"At some point they’ll bump up against problems because they weren’t designed for the world of the Internet and Windows," says Paul Mason, vice president of infrastructure software research at International Data Corp. (IDC, www.idc.com).

To avoid future problems, one vendor, CommVault Systems Inc. (www.commvault.com), recently built a storage management product -- Galaxy -- from the ground up, architecting it for Windows and the Internet.

The first version, shipped toward the end of last month, is the first Internet-era storage management product in terms of architectural design.

CommVault’s Galaxy software architecture is based on what the company calls a CommCell: The combination of three fundamental software modules that allow the software to handle large volumes of data at a high speed.

The first module is the command-and-control piece, called CommServe StorageManager. This directs the interaction between software modules, houses the database, and provides the link to other CommCells. The MediaAgent module manages physical storage devices and backup media on the network. The iDataAgent module handles the interface to the data on client computers, such as files, applications, and databases.

The modules are accessible through a unified interface, in which everything related to the organization’s storage resources -- both physical and logical -- are represented. Through the console these elements can be manipulated, enabling administrators to associate logical actions to physical entities. Administrators, therefore, can create a logical concept, such as a backup schedule or a new security right, and associate it with discrete data sets.

Chris Van Wagoner, director of marketing at CommVault, says the software is engineered with the philosophy that storage management should be a logical function, rather than simply being built around physical hardware.

IDC’s Mason points out that this is one of the most significant aspects of Galaxy. "It’s extremely distributed, everything is distributed from everything else, so it’s a networked architecture," he says. "Management is uncoupled from the physical arrangement of data, so you can move data around and the management stays the same."

With the first version, for instance, administrators could move an employee’s Exchange account, with all the data intact, to a completely different server without affecting the management of that particular account.

Competing products from vendors such as Veritas Software Corp. and Legato Systems Inc. already do much of this. "Their challenge will be to do what Galaxy can do without backing themselves into a dead-end corner they can’t get out of," Mason says.

Galaxy has capabilities that other products do not. For example, Galaxy can restore an individual Exchange message without knowing what server it is on. The first version of Galaxy, however, works only with Windows NT and Exchange Server 5.5.

"The first implementation will at least show the product’s interesting capabilities, but we won’t see its full potential until later versions," Mason says. "Since it can only be used with NT and Exchange, it may appear to be more of a midrange solution than it will become over time."

CommVault plans to release a version for SQL Server 7.0 and Windows 2000 next month.

"We will be adding support for the basic Unix operating systems, basic databases, and NAS devices over the next year or so," CommVault’s Van Wagoner says.

As the product’s breadth expands, it will likely face more competition from old standards, such as Veritas and Legato. IDC’s Mason, however, suggests that there are abstract advantages to using Galaxy.

"It’s hard to know what the world is going to be like in another 10 years," he says. "But one thing that’s for sure is that a product architected today will be better able to handle those needs than a product architected in 1988."