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Address Hybrid Cloud Storage Management Priorities With IBM Hyper-Scale Manager

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Our first task was to look at the way storage administrators and others are involved in storage infrastructure work. If you look at any TV news program, or hospital drama, hosts and staff rarely use fixed workstations. They can be seen walking around and interacting with data/information via a tablet. Today’s knowledge engineers will be agile and mobile, rather than limited to storage administrators. We opted for a tablet-friendly design with a flat UI that followed IBM’s design language for all software.

This starting point is very different from many other vendors. There is a definite sense of separation of domain in many storage products in the marketplace; you have a built for purpose on-premise solution, a completely separate SDS or cloud-based solution, and yet another solution for low latency. Each of these solutions has a different UI and different features—and mobile support is often considered an add-on, not the design point.

NH: Once you had talked to client teams, what was the next step?

AW: Our next area for consideration was how to adapt for the hybrid cloud era. We knew that we needed to combine everything into one homogenous application. What we have in the Spectrum Accelerate software is the versatility in a single storage solution to support flash, disk and software defined. We wanted a management interface that was multi-tier, seamless and intuitive, while giving users the feeling that they were managing the same family. If you look at a volume from A9000/A9000R and a volume from XIV, they are simply shown as two volumes in your new Hyper-Scale Manager environment. Both volumes can be moved, mirrored, mapped and changed in one click—something you cannot do with other storage management solutions.

Additionally, we found that in their workflow, customers were running around with notes, sheets and valuable information in their head that related to data objects, their relations and dependencies. Then, if they needed to monitor, troubleshoot, move or delete these objects, significant planning was required before actually doing any work. Even with planning, tasks might need to be canceled if an unknown dependency was discovered. This bump and restart style can become very time consuming and frustrating for administrators. Once this was understood and researched, it was clear that we needed to develop a new design. IBM researchers saw similar problems occurring in small or growing companies, and came up with an innovative solution that was not currently available in the storage management market.

IBM then started low level designs and developed infrastructure to support them, spending a year to run design validations with close to 50 customers. After two years of research, design and development, IBM launched the new Hyper-Scale Manager UI in the market along with the old UI. We tested it with several customers in its first year, built a roadmap to improve it and closed gaps of features from the old UI.

The new UI takes a highly user-centric, user-minded approach, and has been adapted to the new ways administrators (not just storage administrators) approach their tasks. It can make it easier for them to perform tasks, without the need to remember information, take notes or make sure they are working in a specific order. They can start their task flow at any step they prefer, and the application will make sure they finalize it along with the dependencies and prerequisites.

Also, we delivered new concepts to see and monitor a wide view of the hybrid storage environment through a mobile friendly graphical pane. For example, the Hub widget on the left in Figure 1 (it looks like an octopus) allows fast-path links to important system functions. Live tabs across to the right allow multiple systems to be viewed on the dashboard. Each tab is active, and the user can directly access the function or systems.

After performing IBM internal studies, we believe the new UI can help the customer cut management total cost of ownership (by reducing number of clicks) in half. During all of this work on the new UI, IBM earned about 20 patents on its innovations.

NH: Can you give me examples of where the Hyper-Scale Manager UI meets the demands of working in this new hybrid environment?

AW: Yes, let’s look at a couple of features that spring to mind. The first is a new aspect of storage management that is evolving with storage clouds.

Nick Harris is the Storage Lead in the IBM Competitive Project Office.

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