Shugart Technology Introduces SAN Testing Software

A SAN infrastructure is a complex technology, with few people available within the enterprise to test its performance, functionality, and interoperability. One company is trying to fill in the blanks in the storage market with a new testing tool.

Shugart Technology Inc. ( plans to release a number of storage software packages this year with a focus on automated storage system testing and management.

Shugart’s first product will be FibreCalc, a package for testing Fibre Channel networks. Existing SAN monitoring programs work from a top-down approach -- looking at backup an retrieval processes then drilling down to subsystems -- but FibreCalc fills in a niche by approaching testing and monitoring at the device level.

Like shell scripts such as ping and traceroute, which can detect the functionality and performance of IP networks, FibreCalc tests the infrastructure of Fibre Channel networks. It uses scripts to detect whether devices work and the paths through the networks at a basic level.

Rick Brechtlein, president and CEO of Shugart, believes his company's tools will make storage management easier. "It take a long time to learn the testing tools," he says, suggesting the automated software will eliminate the need for administrators to learn how to test storage equipment at the basic level.

Today, the alternative to FibreCalc is watching the blinking lights on switches and devices or using a trial and error approach, Brechtlein says. Since FibreCalc software runs on a single console, administrators will, at the minimum, save time by not having to run around poking at pieces of equipment or repeatedly configuring a SAN.

Some tests performed by FibreCalc would otherwise be out of reach for most administrators. "You get to the point where you need very sophisticated hardware," Brechtlein says.

FibreCalc uses a piece of fairly unsophisticated hardware for its interface metaphor -- a calculator. Brechtlein says most users will be comfortable with the interface and find it relatively intuitive.

FibreCalc comes with prefabricated test scripts for common tests done with Fibre Channel equipment. This allows users who are not familiar with Fibre Channel operation to perform stock tests to determine problems, without having to learn how and what to test.

"The very same tools can be used by the guy in the development lab," Brechtlein says. OEMs may also benefit from having automated tools for testing device input/output. Since SAN interoperability is in its infancy, both OEMs and users need to ensure that devices work together. FibreCalc cannot enable interoperability, but it can perform tests to see if devices are interoperable.

OEMs may also be interested in FibreCalc because it offers users the ability to create and perform customized testing scripts. SAN designers may be able to exploit the flexibility of the tool to create bulletproof SANs. "Most of the big players are looking for solutions," Brechtlein says.

In addition to the device testing functionality, Shugart aims to accommodate the various protocols used in storage systems. While Fibre Channel dominates most SANs today, future high-end storage systems may use SCSI over IP, Infiniband, Gigabit Ethernet, or even plain SCSI. Shugart plans to follow the market and support protocols as they gain adoption.