Extend Virtual Data Center Visibility With EMC Smarts

Have you ever wished you had a better way to fix a problem?

Writing this post made me think about my meeting today with a data center manager who was looking for a better way to manage his pre-packaged VCE Vblock systems with his non-Vblock VMware environment. He needed a complete view of the entire environment to enable his administrators to work through issues. The Vblocks alone were less of a concern because of the tight integration of compute, networking, and storage. But, the VMware virtual machines (VMs) accessing other storage were more problematic. Occasionally, when VMs or storage got reallocated via vMotion, the resulting configurations would be askew, impacting the availability and performance of virtualized applications or services.

If he had the just-announced EMC Smarts 9.1 release, he would get greater visibility into VMware compute and storage, plus configuration management and hooks into SAN/NAS and wireless networks. He would get one tool with a single view of all compute, networking, and storage. This release is about the virtual data center and includes new and tighter integrations with vCenter Server and the EMC SRM Suite for application-to-storage management.

Service Assurance for the Data Center

What is Smarts?

EMC Smarts is a software solution for automated data center management. EMC Smarts has long had a solid reputation as a network operations center (NOC) tool for automatically identifying root causes in the data center. Then, virtualization and now cloud-computing drove Smarts to provide more compute and storage environment analysis to meet the evolving cross-domain needs of IT personnel.

EMC Smarts 9.1 builds on an already rich set of capabilities to help organizations address modern data center management challenges head on. Its new features expand on three (3) key areas:

1. Virtual Data Center Visibility:  Smarts provides line-of-sight in virtualized IT environments, from VMs to the underlying physical infrastructure. Prior to this release, Smarts provided operations personnel and administrators with the ability to understand data center interdependencies involving virtual networks, virtual switches, VMware vMotion activity, VM impacts, and all VMware-attached storage.  With Smarts 9.1, this visibility has been expanded to include more insight for operations teams looking to better understand the interrelationships between virtualized applications and block, file, and object storage:

  • Deeper storage management insight:  This new release enables administrators to discover and monitor storage vMotion activity and VMware Storage Distributed Resource Scheduling (Storage DRS).
  • Enhanced visibility of cloud and VMware platforms:  With Smarts 9.1, users can automatically monitor all application processes on VMware ESX and vCenter, as well as the EMC Atmos object storage platform, with any process failures identified as a root-cause problem for these environments.

With this line-of-sight view, the data center manager I met would have his single, complete view of his data center. This view would include his current Vblock and other block- and file-based storage plus the object storage (i.e. Atmos) he plans to onboard to handle his unstructured data.

2. Configuration Management:  Smarts provides visibility into all changes and deviations from approved configurations, using policies to ensure desired configurations automatically remain compliant. With Smarts 9.1, configuration management has been enhanced to provide a device-driver toolkit to create read/write device drivers for managing new networking equipment configurations.

For our data center manager, this means he gets the peace-of-mind that new technology he acquires can be quickly integrated into his data center management system.

3. Identify and Act:  Smarts is used to identify the root cause of any issue, and separate symptoms from problems to address the appropriate issue impacting application and service delivery. It also provides for assessing risk conditions by showing performance degradations and understanding dependencies—before business impact occurs. Smarts 9.1 expands these identify and act capabilities to provide:

  • Storage and data path impact analysis:  For SAN and NAS environments, through new and enhanced integrations with EMC ProSphere storage resource management, and VMware vCenter, Smarts provides improved storage device- and path-level root-cause and impact analysis.
  • Enhanced wireless (Wi-Fi) network management:  This release adds the ability to perform root-cause analysis through discovery and monitoring of wireless controllers and access points.

For the data center manager, this means more use of information from other EMC storage management products, as well as from vCenter, and the ability to now monitor and manage wireless networks as more user services get delivered via mobile devices.

Extended Visibility and Management

How does Smarts 9.1 measure up to data-center management needs?

With reference to my recent post about the cloud operations center, these enhancements improve on an already comprehensive offering that adheres to the key tenets of data center operations management.  Smarts 9.1 provides:

  • Good visibility: Tighter integration with VMware vCenter and the EMC SRM Suite, particularly EMC ProShere for storage management, improves the end-to-end topology view, enhancing Smarts’ ability to perform root-cause and impact analysis across the data center.
  • Sound relationships: The increased virtual data center visibility in Smarts 9.1 provides a better understanding of the interdependencies in the virtual environment, including virtual machine (compute), virtual switches (compute and network), and all VMware-attached storage (e.g. Vblocks, and block-, file-, and object-based storage), as well as vMotion activity.
  • Current information: The new driver tool kit ensures that new devices can be added easily to existing data center elements for continuous, cross-domain management of the entire environment.
  • Integrated management: Smarts 9.1 integrations with the SRM Suite and vCenter provide a single root-cause and impact analysis capability from the compute (vCenter), network, and storage (ProSphere) perspective.
  • Modeling capabilities: With the new capability to provide root-cause and impact analysis for wireless networks, Smarts 9.1 extends its predictive abilities to discover problems before they happen to impact service assurance for mobile devices.

Single View Solution

As the data centers evolve, administrators need to stretch beyond their assigned domains and comfort zones to assure service levels. Collaborating with colleagues requires a consistent view into the data center topology for better communications in getting to the root of problems. Having a single tool like Smarts 9.1 goes a long way to simplifying the conversation by providing a single view across the different areas to all data center administrators, pulling together information from application to storage, working across physical and virtual layers. The data center manager I met would be well-served with this release and in a good position with a finger on the pulse of his data center to continue on to the successful completion of his cloud deployment and beyond.

About the Author: Mark Prahl