Wednesday, 13 June 2007

ECC 6.0 vs HiCommand 6.0?

EMC recently announced the release of ECC (ControlCenter) version 6.0. This version finally meets customer demands for VMware support (which despite the fact EMC own VMware is a long time coming) plus a whole host of other enhanced reporting.

I did a lot of work recently on virtualisation of storage tools using VMware and this version of ECC was planned not only to be the one which supported virtual guests (i.e. could understand how the VMware ESX Server had taken real storage and presented the guest O/S some of that) but also would be the version to run in a virtualised environment. Previous versions of ECC would work virtualised, however EMC were understandably concerned with performance and any negative impact bad performance of ECC on VMware would create. New new versions of ECC also support new features and functionality like other vendor's arrays (there were issues with the 5.x versions supporting NSC55 correctly). I think the enhanced reporting will prove extremely useful and overall ECC is now a great product.

Compare this to HDS' suite of products, HiCommand, currently at version 5.5 (check here for the compatibility matrix for Device Manager dated November 2006, not including the USP-V, check here for the same for Tuning Manager, quoting version 5.1 and other versions in the text, woefully out of date). A new version of this software will be needed in order to support USP-V and the new functionality. Will it be called 6.0?

Device Manager is still a second rate product at the current version. There are so many fundamental problems with the product. Here are just a few:

  • Poor agent handling. Multiple products still require multiple agents. No O/S information retrieved from host, no indication whether the agent is running. Single fixed host information "push" from the client, no central scheduling for intra-day host collection. No agent push deployment from the server.
  • No integrated (e.g. Active Directory) security.
  • Only 2 storage reports, one of which can't understand dual pathed devices.
  • Poor integration with other software, including CCI.
  • Quirky, inflexible allocation method for assigning storage and for assigning hosts into groups.
  • Lack of consistent feel for the products - the GUI has been made more consistent across the product range but agent installations are to differing locations (and change depending on things such as the version of HDLM installed)
  • Poor documentation
  • Unclear feature definitions (e.g. deletion of a host removes the "host security" - does that actually delete the storage, the HSD, or what?)

This is only a brief list as putting it all here in the blog would be more dull to read than my postings normally are. Also bear in mind Device Manager doesn't have to do that much - it doesn't even support other vendor's hardware. However I made this list to provide a comparison with how far ECC is ahead of HiCommand, bearing in mind they are at similar development levels.

I still think HDS don't get the whole software proposition. I know we all laugh at EMC calling themselves a software company, however at least they are heading in the right direction and excluding the integration issues from the 3 million other software companies they've purchased over the last few years they are turning out good SRM products (caveat, even ECC has issues).

As the storage offerings from HDS get more complicated, we need the tools to be trustworthy, usable, intuitive and unless they start getting there, no-one will want to use thin provisioning and virtualisation because the tools will just not deliver on enabling the productivity savings that those features can achieve.

HDS, pleeeeease tell me version 6.0 will be better? At the same time, you might want to update your website to ensure the compatibility matrix references the latest products.


schoonerdog said...

That's been my experience as well. Out company spent over 600 to 700k on HiCommand only to end up dumping it for the exact reasons you mentioned. The host agents were unstable, there was no automated push, the architecture was monolithic, unscalable, and very unstable, the java based client was far slower than the point based solutions. ECC wasn't perfect, but was far more ready for an enterprise architecture.

schoonerdog said...

That's exactly our companies experience with hicommand (appiq as it was known, HP storage essentials....). We spent over 600k on the product, but it was so unstable that we eventually had to yank it (It was reinstalled every 2 months for a year). It's lack of automated client push made the updates of clients take weeks (their company stated most companies took months), when the client had to be updated you were at ground zero with another slow manual deinstall and reinstall, it's extremely slow real world use (As opposed to the blindingly fast demos) made it unteneable for doing administration, it couldn't reliable find our devices, and it's claim of using only open standards for storage calls is blatantly false, it used simply command line calls for whatever platform it was contacting. That's why you still had to have all of the EMC and Hi command servers to process the commands as intermediary agents. Completely unready for enterprise environment.