VMAX Hump Day – A discussion on SMC and GUI Design

Happy VMAX Hump Day!  I actually typed this last night, but I like the idea of publishing things on Wednesday to get you over the hump. Should I make this a series?

I’ve noticed the lack of VMAX blogging out there.  In fact…I’ve also noticed the lack of MY blogging lately.  I think it is because my head has been buried lately in the “EMC Solutions Enabler Symmetrix CLI Quick Reference”  And by quick, EMC means that they print out the help information for every possible combination of commands you can do with symcli commands and leave you to decipher what there complex strings of flags, variables, etc mean.  Is it a useful guide?  Yes.  Will it make your head hurt? Yes.

Ok, so there are some geeks out there that actually like doing command line tasks while stroking their UNIX Beards but I for one like GUIs.  So I decided that while using the SYMCLI guide, I would try to figure out how to do like tasks in EMC Symmetrix Management Console! Or SMC for short.  EMC Marketing guru’s say:

EMC Symmetrix Management Console and Symmetrix Performance Analyzer simplify management and provide advanced monitoring capabilities for Symmetrix environments.

Notice the word ‘simplify’.

Now get out a normal calculator.  ‘calc’ would work too if you’re on a windows box…or the equivalent mac widget.

Look at it.  That is simple.

Now go back to calc.  You closed it right?  Ok, open it again.  Go to view and switch to ‘Programmer Mode’.

Look at it.  That is simple with a bit of complex thrown into the mix.  What are those HEX characters?  What do those buttons do on the left?  OH NO!!!  SIMPLE IS NOT SIMPLE ANYMORE.

Symmetrix is not Clariion or VNX but at least the team at EMC threw the Clariion and Celerra teams in the room a few years back and made them work together to come up with a common interface to manage both products (Unisphere) and for the most part it is a lot easier than Navisphere and Celerra manager.

Symmetrix Management Console seems like it is not as refined as it could be.  For example:

Open up SMC.

Expand Masking Views.

Right click on a host’s masking view, go to device masking and mapping and go to port group maintenance.

WHAT!  You mean changes I make in port group maintenance will effect all hosts and not the one I just clicked on?  This should be grayed out for hosts to prevent accidental umm things from happening.

…Please don’t try this at home…or in your production environment.  Just one example of many that just doesn’t make sense to me.

I know the die hard symmetrix fans will say “Well you really shouldn’t be doing that” which I agree, however as environments grow I think you are going to see more and more happy Clariion and VNX customers considering VMAX or VMAXe in their futures.  They will be turning to EMC to provide the same type of “Ease of Use” that they expected in the Mid Tiered storage lines and let’s face it the learning curve is a bit complex on VMAX/Symm.  Almost as complex as that graphing calculator in Calculus class….

This is by no means a slam on EMC or VMAX.  I love VMAX almost to an obsession, but if I put my ‘customer’ goggles on…the interface is less than desirable.  In this day and age of very nice GUI design we should learn to put the CLI down for a minute and consider what is best for the customer.  The CLI has it’s place, just like Navicli does but it shouldn’t be the prime method of management of an array that is as awesome as VMAX is.  That’s like handing someone a new Ferrari, and telling them that “the steering wheel  and pedals are gone but here is a keyboard.  You can still turn the car by typing Left, Right, Accelerate, and Decelerate.  Have Fun!”

Physical User Interfaces (Steering Wheels and Pedals) and Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) is what allows us to interact with products in a Human way.   Complex products can have nice interfaces.  VMWare Virtual Center, Unisphere, even umm the Internet…as long as you don’t use Windows Explorer.  In my opinion, if EMC were to come to market with a simpler interface (simpler doesn’t mean stupid…) they would open there doors to potentially more customers.  Keep the command line, but offer something special with SMC.  It’s not dreadfully horrible now, but it is slow, tasks take forever to do…  Not something you would expect from basically the best storage array on the market right now.

Just my two cents…  It’s Hump Day, I haven’t blogged in a while and figured you would like to know my opinion on some things.



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2 Responses to VMAX Hump Day – A discussion on SMC and GUI Design

  1. I completely agree. I’m relatively new to VMAX, and find SMC is not designed well at all. SPA though is fantastic! But I come from an EVA shop where there was zero real time performance statistics.

  2. kc says:

    Although this is Nov 2012, I agree – partially. We use SMC for managing our DMX-2000, DMX-3, DMX-4 and VMax in the near future, SMC is great for checking on information about SRDF, device status, etc, which is better than nothing. Heard from EMC that VMax has a new tool which is better than SMC – almost like Uni/Navisphere? Are you using that? If I did not really look at a VNXe or a VMax, I would have thought – based on looking at the Navisphere and SMC interface, that those arrays are not worth it. But really — it is like Microsoft producing a crappy version of Skype on their own app store, although they own the frigging app! Hope EMC listens and reads, and improves on the value added services that it provides.

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