Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Fibre Channel Information Tool (fcinfo)

Have you encountered situations where you needed to check FC connectivity information on a production host? And no HBA utilities like SANturfer or HBAnowhere are installed on any SAN host. Couple of times, I ran in to such situations. Most customers are not excited about installing programs or utilities on a production host. Without HBA utility, SAN troubleshooting becomes little bit more challenging.

I was glad to read in Matt's blog entry Solaris fibre channel management that Solaris 10u1 base OS now includes a fcinfo command to view HBA and connectivity information. BTW, Matt's blog is pretty cool for all things Solaris.
From Solaris 10 - man pages section 1M: System Administration Commands 816-5166 document,

fcinfo – Fibre Channel HBA Port Command Line Interface

fcinfo hba-port [-l] [HBA_port_WWNÂ…]

fcinfo remote-port [-ls] [-p HBA_port_WWN] [REMOTE_port_WWNÂ…]

fcinfo [-V]

fcinfo [-?]

fcinfo is a command line interface that collects administrative information on fibre channel host bus adapter (HBA) ports on a host. It also collects data on any fibre channel targets that may be connected to those ports in a Storage Area Network (SAN).

The following subcommands are supported:

Lists information for the HBA port referenced by the specified HBA_port_WWN. If HBA_port_WWN is not specified, all fibre channel HBA ports on the host will be listed.

Lists the remote-port information for those remote ports that are specified. If no REMOTE_port_WWN is specified, all remote ports that are visible through HBA_port_WWN are listed.

SUN is not generally considered to be at the forefront of storage innovation. And sure enough, Microsoft also has fcinfo utility (Download) for Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 systems. The cool feature is that you don't need to install it on the host.

Microsoft also mentions that fcinfo utility is based on the SNIA HBA API for management of Fibre Channel Host Bust Adapters and discovery of SAN resources. There is also an open source project The Fibre Channel HBA API Project on Sourceforge with more information.

SNIA is good for something finally!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Storage a 'necessary evil'?

Last few months, I have been busy with products issue. It is surprising how little I had to say through my blog during this time. In reality, I enjoy thinking about how grid storage can solve customer issues than why host A is not seeing device B! So, if you are a grid storage company, I would like to hear from you.

Two weeks ago, it was a nice change to visit Princeton to attend a weekend backyard party. Mostly, people working in IT management and CIO office of pharmaceutical, healthcare and financial services industry were present. Three years ago, when I failed to raise sufficient funding for a storage software startup, the conversations at one such party was the catalyst for launch of storage services.

This year, my conversations revolved around how IT management perceives storage. Three points were quite apparent in all conversations.
  • Storage is a cost center whose spigot need to be tighten.
  • Storage is a 'necessary evil,' something you need but can suck all your resources.
  • Storage needs new strategies to demonstrate its value to bottom line of business.
The reasons behind these points were quite clear. In last few years, storage industry has been promoting fear and insecurity about data loss and need to spend on data protection. And customers are spending increasing portion of their storage budget on data protection and regulatory compliance.

This is leading to a change in executive level perception that storage is a cost center, an expense that doesn't add to the bottom line of their business. This is a significant change in perception from few years ago when the justifications for storage project was how they have direct impact on the company revenues/bottom line though improvement in data accessibility and uptime.