Tools for Storage / RAID Subsystem Vendors

If you're reading this page, then you probably have a long list of storage-related features that your customers are demanding. Here are some of the problems we have solved over the years, to serve as examples of what we may be able to do for you. As everything depends on certain controllers, drive types, APIs, and firmware revisions, so do not assume that everything is adaptable to your platform. The examples are listed to demonstrate proficiency and experience with common storage-related challenges.

  • Disk Burn-in - Our smartmon-ux software can be scripted to send appropriate patterns, perform data validity testing, invoke the manufacturer's internal disk diagnostics, and report detailed results. While there is no universal right way and standards for rejecting a disk, we can certainly improve your testing methodology and hopefully identify areas for improvement.
  • Subsystem Evaluation - While we won't break our confidentiality with any vendors, we can certainly review your questions and testing methodologies to insure that your requirements are addressed. Appropriate testing requires a great deal of software and experience, and as this is an infrequent activity, then we can reduce the learning curve so you can complete your technical evaluation more efficiently.
  • Benchmarking - Our software lets you create ECC errors at user-defined locations, so you can see how many frames you will drop when there is a read error. We can perform data validation testing to make sure that the RAID5 or RAID6 actually works with single or multiple errors. We can force a drive to spin down in the middle of an I/O. We can report error information and log data that isn't necessarily reported by the management software for the RAID engine, so you can make an informed decision.
  • Tuning - In many cases we can report how much data actually went to/from the disk drive, the controller, and/or device driver. When your benchmark says you are getting 500MB/sec, how do you know that your subsystem is really delivering 500MB/sec? There is file system tuning, RAID tuning, disk drive tuning, and so on. Are I/Os balanced or aligned properly? Are there any artificial constraints like bus limitations or wait states significantly affecting your test bed?
  • Management Software - Does your subsystem vendor lock you into either a branded configurator/monitor, or some bloated Java-based package that chews up so many system resources that it is unacceptable. We have access to the APIs for numerous RAID controller vendors, and have written configurators and monitoring software. We've written command-line and HTML-GUI based configurators for operating systems that the RAID manufacturer didn't support. We've written custom phone/home, SNMP/EMAIL add-ons that vendors brand as their own.
  • Firmware Management - How many of your customers have loaded or attempted to load the wrong firmware on a drive, controller, or SES enclosure. Do you have software that lets you flash disk drives that works on Solaris, IRIX, LINUX, or any other UNIX platform, in-band? Or do you have to use a windows PC and a special cable?
  • Diagnostic Software - When you take a product to market, both customers and field service need to be able to measure and log errors that aren't normally trapped by your host operating system or storage subsystem. We have a variety of off-the-shelf solutions that you can brand, as well as the expertise to modify our software to meet additional requirements.
  • Hardware Control - Sometimes customers open up drive carriers and purchase unsupported disks from alterate vendors. These disks are often unqualified make/models; rarely have the appropriate mode page settings and can have untested or known-to-not-work firmware. Customers think they are saving money, but we know they are risking data integrity and performance, and this usually leads to finger pointing and additional support calls. We've written software that can detect unauthorized substitutions. We've even written software that can force unsupported drives to spin down after they have been detected.
  • Enclosure Sevices - We have SES and SAF-TE enclosure management/monitoring software for SBOD, JBOD, and EBOD enclosures. If your enclosure is ANSI-compliant, then our code will work on it. Furthermore, if you have a Xyratex or LSI-manufactured enclosure, then our software will let you upgrade the firmware via the fibre-channel interface. We also enumerate vendor-specific information, and provide you full programmatic control over LEDs, audible alarms, and fan speed. Embedded NAS/SAN appliance vendors use our software to enhance their reporting capability, enumerate devices by serial number and physical slot, and upgrade firmware. Our software is embeddable, doesn't require Java, and is designed to be invoked by command-line or batch scripts.
  • Embedded Management - If you are an appliance vendor, particularly one that uses software-based RAID, then you know how important it is to provide visual and audible information about the health of the external storage farm. If you are using intelligent enclosures, then we can provide you utility software that will light up LEDs of a critical LUN during a rebuild, and turn on the audible alarm. We have self-test and predictive failure software that you can easily incorporate into your logic. You can run data integrity tests and perform data validation tests to determine whether or not a disk needs to be returned from a customer. Quite frankly, it is difficult to write code that integrates with on-board SAS/SCSI/FC controllers, particularly RAID controllers. With SANtools supplying you back-end code to manage the hardware, you can spend your valuable R&D resources elsewhere.
  • Emergency Recovery - Sometimes RAID subsystems lose their configuration. The data is there, but the RAID engine doesn't report any LUNs. We have quite a bit of experience recovering lost configurations with Mylex RAID engines, and are working on a semi-automated solution for additional engines.
  • Outside-the-box - Prevent customers from adding 3rd-party disks into your appliance? Self-healing RAID? Tune undocumented parameters for optimal performance? When you know the internals and have access to the information like we do, then you can have a software black-box that can provide such solutions.
  • FC Switch Utilities - We have software that lets you interact with Brocade, McData and other fibre channel switches, either in-band or out of band. This functionality is typically used to retrieve detailed error logs, switch configuration, and SAN topology details. They allow you to efficiently capture end-user configurations and fabric health. As these utilities are stand-alone native executables, there is no need for an installer, java runtimes, or any prerequisites that you know you'll have to walk your customer through installing. Incorporate the programs within shell scripts, cgi code, or run them from your shell or windows command-line.
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