ESI (EMC Storage Integrator) is a new tool from EMC designed to simplify storage administration for the Microsoft administrator (you may recall I blogged about the initial product announcement a few months ago). It's not that managing EMC storage is difficult, we already have several wizards built into our storage management tools and easy to use dashboards as well as application based wizards designed for provisioning storage. The problem is that provisioning storage is only one out of many steps when setting up SAN drives for a Windows host or Microsoft application.
Typically you configure the storage including modifying settings and granting permissions for the server to access the new storage drives. You need to configure the fabric layer to make sure the host and the storage have permission to talk to one another. You use Windows Disk Administrator and find the new drive, set the proper disk offset for Windows, format with a file system, assign a drive letter and then mount it to Windows to use. If the drive will be used for clustering you need to use the Failover Cluster Manager tool to configure clustering. Whew..and that's just getting the new drive ready to use for Windows!
Once that is done you go to the application and create the new application database or Sharepoint farm and place the files on this new drive. In the case of Sharepoint Portal Server this includes interacting with SQL Server (and maybe more SAN drives) for the content database.
All in all, we calculated that this can take up to 86 minutes! And that's if only one person is doing the tasks. What if you need to rely on others to finish their operation before you can proceed?!
Enter ESI. ESI will handle all tasks including provisioning the storage, setting permissions, formatting the drives and assigning drive letters for Windows and even provision your Sharepoint farm for you! Using MMC, ESI completes these tasks as background operations in seconds to minutes so that you can minimize the number of management screens you have to access and so you don't need to be a storage expert to configure drives for Windows. ESI will also provide reporting capabilities so you can log on and look at a storage array, see what hosts are connected to it, what drives are connected, how they are connected and so forth.
What's the best part about ESI? It's FREE! The only requirement is that you are running EMC storage and a Microsoft operating system.
To get ESI you can log into EMC Powerlink (current customer or partner) to download. You can also ask your EMC sales team for a copy and they will be happy to help you.
Still not convinced? Head over to Youtube for a short video showing how ESI works when adding new drives and configuring a new Sharepoint application:
ESI has many enhancements in the works so stay tuned for more updates to see how ESI continues to simplify managing storage for Windows!