Simplifying Storage Management

By | August 8, 2006

With every new product release, the building blocks of storage (such as storage switches, arrays and HBAs) become more intelligent and capable of better fine-grained control over how enterprise storage is configured, provisioned and secured.

But these building blocks need to be managed efficiently and cost-effectively, so that storage management costs do not wipe out the savings and agility an organisation seeks from its networked storage. Adding layer upon layer of storage management software on top of the physical storage hardware makes the environment more complex, and increases (rather than reduces) ongoing operational and capital costs.

A well-implemented storage resource management (SRM) strategy eliminates these unnecessary layers of software and provides an easier-to-manage, top-down view of the storage infrastructure. Such a strategy allows storage managers, from within a single application, to view their overall storage infrastructure and to perform detailed management of individual storage elements.

SRM basics

Storage resource management refers to the management, provisioning, troubleshooting and resolution of problems within the storage infrastructure (consisting of storage arrays, switches in storage networks, the storage fabric itself and the host-bus adapters, or HBAs, which link servers to the storage network.)

SRM tools commonly provide discovery of each element in the storage infrastructure; topology mapping which describes how the elements are connected; reporting of critical information about the devices (such as the version of the operating system or firmware installed on them), as well as statistics about the performance of each element; and event management which reports on specific events (selected by the storage administrator) such as the failure of a storage device.

They may also provide capacity management, which allows an administrator to balance the amount of data stored among various arrays to maximise performance, to lower cost or to achieve specified levels of reliability; performance management, which allows administrators to tune specific attributes such as bandwidth, the level of RAID protection on an array or port assignments to ensure devices operate at their maximum performance levels; security management, which includes zoning, LUN masking and the assignment of encryption levels to various devices; trend analysis of metrics such as the capacity available on storage arrays or bandwidth bottlenecks in a SAN, as well as the automation of routine tasks such as provisioning volumes as applications need more space or moving older, or less valuable, data to slower disk arrays or to tape libraries.

Wobbly software stack

In an ideal world, a single software product from a single vendor would provide all these capabilities in any level of detail an administrator needed, for any storage device or combination of devices.

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