About: Adding Value to EMC Unified Storage


EMC's product portfolio includes software solutions that appear comparable with Northern Storage Suite. These solutions do offer a good introduction to what can be achieved when an organisation begins to take control of user generated data. However, alternative solutions are required if a wider range of needs are to be fulfilled in enterprise environments.

This document helps to identify when native EMC solutions will satisfy a need and when an alternative solutions such as Northern Storage Suite may be required.

NSS Design Goals

Northern Storage Suite is a software solution that enables organizations to gain control over unstructured data. At its core it offers customers five fundamental features:

  • Granual Storage Quotas: quotas at share, directory, sub-directory levels as well as nested quotas
  • File Blocking: In-band file extension filtering and out-of-band binary-level reporting
  • Storage Reporting: Drill-down reporting; executive overview to file-level data, full history and trending
  • User, Share Admin Involvement: Interactive reporting to data owners, accessed ad-hoc or at usage thresholds
  • Storage Billing: Reporting the financial cost of storage use, flexible cost-centers and tiered billing models

Comparable Solutions

The features of Northern Storage Suite are similar to those of three EMC technologies:

  • EMC Celerra File Extension Filtering: Controlling which types of files can be saved to a CIFS share
  • EMC Celerra Quotas: Soft or hard disk usage limits for users, groups or trees within CIFS and NFS file systems
  • EMC VisualSRM: Now end-of-life, VSRM offered detailed reporting on storage use with threshold actions 

Functional and Operational Differences


Graphical user interface
There are clear differences between the interface styles of the Northern and EMC solutions. The interface of Northern Storage Suite is an information-rich and flexible workspace – it is better suited to the design, deployment and management of detailed and flexible quota policies. The interfaces available for EMC Celerra Quotas and File Extension Filtering fit well with the policies deployed and managed using these tools but may lack some of the administration capabilities required by many customers.

User\share admin involvement
This key feature area of Northern Storage Suite is not available in any comparable EMC solution. The ability to send reports to users or share admins when usage parameters are met – listing the oldest, largest, duplicate, media, etc. files with a path – is extremely attractive to many storage administrators. Add the ability to open, delete or move files from directly within those reports and you have a very powerful addition to quota policies.


VisualSRM no longer available for purchase
End-of-life was announced for VisualSRM in 2008. It’s inclusion in this study is intended to demonstrate in which customer environments VSRM can be replaced by Northern Storage Suite. Although VSRM offered some functionalities that the Northern solution does not, it is clear that the two products overlap significantly.


Disrupted file system operations at deployment
EMC Celerra Quotas must be enabled, disabled or cleared during off-peak hours. When these operations are executed the Celerra Network Server freezes the production file system; users are disconnected or receive the message that the server is inaccessible. Northern Storage Suite is available for customers who require greater flexibility in deployment options.

Paths must be empty before quotas are applied
EMC Celerra Quotas cannot be applied on a directory structure that already contains data. Any existing files in the intended target of a quota must be moved out of that path before policies are enabled. Also, if a quota definition is to be removed, all data in the quota path must first be moved to a new location.

Policy granularity
EMC Celerra Quotas can be set at tree-level. Many environments require the definition of more granular policies. Northern Storage Suite provides an additional layer of granularity by allowing quotas to be deployed at any level within the file system, including directory and sub-directory levels – offering the definition of tailored quota policies as well as broad-stroke rules.


Policy tuning - different levels of file access
Here the EMC offering provides a range of access restriction options that are not available in the Northern solution. Contrary to the ‘block’ or ‘not block’ options available from Northern, the extension-based filtering option from EMC allows the definition of very specific access types. Users or groups can be refused Write privileges, but allowed Read access for example. Customers are likely to appreciate the ability to tune access to file types. They should be somewhat cautious however, as the lack of graphical user interface for this tool can make the management of policies complex and uncertain.


Capability greatly strengthened
The financial reporting capability of VisualSRM was limited to some simple reports. This type of reporting is a key focus of Northern Storage Suite. As such, NSS is able to offer a very flexible and integration-ready billing solution that can calculate costs according to tiered billing models and charge\report for individual users, groups and paths.


As with all purchase descisions it is only important to consider how well needs are matched. In some cases the solution offered via native EMC solutions delivers on an organization's needs, in many cases a more granualar and flexible solution is required.

In 2008 EMC engaged Northern within the EMC Select program; taking Northern into the inner-cirlce of technology partnerships and making Northern solutions directly accessible to Unified Storage customers. This step was taking becuase of the growing need for a second-tier quota and reporting solution among EMC Unified Storage customers.

KB Article: 1744

Updated: 6/27/2016

  • Category
    • Concept
  • Affected versions
    • NSS 9.0
    • NSS 9.5

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