REVIEWER: Ernie Demers, manager of UNIX infrastructure and storage for Experian Marketing Services.

BACKGROUND: Experian is a global leader in providing information solutions to organizations and consumers. It helps organizations find, develop and manage profitable customer relationships by providing information, decision-making solutions and processing services. It empowers consumers to understand, manage and protect their personal information and assets. Experian works with more than 50,000 clients across diverse industries.

PLATFORMS: EMC ControlCenter is being used to manage EMC Symmetrix DMX networked storage, EMC CLARiiON fibre channel and ATA storage, EMC Celerra NS600G network attached storage gateway, Sun Solaris servers, IBM AIX servers, Windows 2000 servers and Linux servers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: As a result of tremendous business expansion, we were experiencing exponential storage growth - from 1.5 terabytes four years ago to 110 terabytes today. EMC ControlCenter has been critical to reliably and efficiently managing this growth. It allows us to quickly identify and eliminate bottlenecks and performance problems, which is critical to providing clients with fast, reliable access to information. We no longer need to rely on spreadsheets and less precise reporting tools to monitor the status of our storage resources. Moreover, ControlCenter helps advance our information life cycle management (ILM) strategy in that it provides centralized control over a diverse IT environment, producing cost savings and improved data availability.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: EMC ControlCenter lets us monitor and control our diverse storage environment -- storage arrays, switches, hosts, files and databases. It produces very detailed reports on storage utilization and the location of stored data and applications. As a result, we can identify bottlenecks, "hot disks" and potential performance problems before they become real problems. Then, we can make decisions immediately on how to change our allocations of storage across our environment. We now can resolve problems ourselves in a few hours compared with the days and outside assistance that was once required. ControlCenter is an integrated set of storage management applications that address many different functions. It has a strong modeling tool that lets us do "what-if" analyses and simulate what the effect would be. All of these functions contribute to us bringing new applications and functionality to the user community more quickly. That speed improvement translates into bottom-line savings for Experian. Another key aspect of ControlCenter is its support for heterogeneous environments. ControlCenter helps us manage the allocation of storage across multiple mainframe and server operating systems. We've achieved tremendous economies of scale through central management of our storage.

STRENGTHS: Strengths of the product include automated storage monitoring and management; the depth, breadth and detail of actionable information on the end-to-end storage environments including hosts, SAN and storage arrays; integrated set of powerful tools for workload balancing, rapid identification of available storage and proactive troubleshooting; and ease of implementation and scalability.

WEAKNESSES: The weaknesses of the product include server resource requirements (which have improved recently with more efficient agents) and reporting accuracy issues, although the latest version addresses this by incorporating data accuracy checkpoints.

SELECTION CRITERIA: ControlCenter address our needs and challenges. It is richer and more open than the other products we evaluated.

DELIVERABLES: As previously noted, EMC ControlCenter delivers highly detailed reports on storage utilization and the location of stored data and applications. In addition, it gives us the ability to do modeling ("what-if") and trend analyses. This enables us to be more effective and proactive in managing our storage environment.

VENDOR SUPPORT: EMC Professional Services provide a high level of engineering expertise and are proactive in helping resolve customer problems. They assisted us with knowledge transfer and setting up reporting functionality specific to our needs.

DOCUMENTATION: By relying on the documentation, we were able to run the product in many different circumstances including zoning and addition of hosts.


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