How to Eliminate Planned Downtime for Storage Systems

by Mike McNamara, NetApp

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The cost of downtime is a major concern for organizations of all types and sizes. A disaster that causes an extended outage has the potential to put a company out of business entirely. Because of this, IT professionals have designed their storage infrastructure to survive these rare events.

However, downtime from storage maintenance and life-cycle management is both predictable and preventable. It has been estimated that planned downtime accounts for nearly 90% of all outages, while unplanned downtime is responsible for only 10%. Because it is more common, planned downtime can be far more disruptive to the typical organization, with a greater impact on both business applications and IT operations.

Fortunately, the causes of planned downtime for storage systems are easy to identify, and NetApp® Data ONTAP®, the industry’s leading storage operating system1, offers the ability to prevent these types of outages.

Scale-out storage is the most powerful way to respond to data growth and data management challenges. Learn more today.

Potential Downtime from Storage System Maintenance
The cumulative downtime from maintaining multiple storage systems can be hours, days, or even weeks, depending on the size of the organization. Although the maintenance for these types of updates can usually be scheduled, the urgency can be unpredictable, leading to disruptive “fire drill” exercises for IT staff. Examples of maintenance operations that can result in downtime include:

  • Upgrading a storage OS to a new version
  • Upgrading firmware for storage controllers, disk shelves, disk drives, or switches
  • Replacing failed components, such as  controllers, NICs, HBAs, or  I/O modules
  • Redistributing data across controllers to improve performance or support capacity growth

Potential Downtime from Life-Cycle Management
Compared with maintenance operations, life-cycle management changes are fairly predictable and provide more time for planning. On the other hand, these types of changes can be even more disruptive than those resulting from maintenance operations. Examples of storage life-cycle events that can cause planned downtime include:

  • Adding storage controllers or disk shelves to scale capacity
  • Adding storage controllers, flash capacity, disk shelves, or I/O ports to scale performance
  • Upgrading storage shelves, controllers, or back-end switches as part of a technology refresh

Eliminate Planned Downtime with Clustered Data ONTAP
Clustered Data ONTAP supports nondisruptive operations by design and can transparently migrate data and network connections anywhere within a scalable and highly available storage cluster. The ability to move individual data volumes, known as data motion for volumes, allows data to be redistributed across a storage cluster at any time and for any reason. This data motion is transparent and nondisruptive to both NAS and SAN hosts and enables the storage infrastructure to continue to serve data in spite of common maintenance operations and life-cycle updates. For example, data motion can be performed in order to rebalance capacity usage, optimize for changing performance requirements, or isolate one or more controllers or storage components when performing an application upgrade or hardware refresh.

For more information on providing nondisruptive operations for your 24/7 environment, visit the NetApp Tech ONTAP community for best practice guidelines, technical case studies, and in-depth interviews with engineering experts.

1 Source: NetApp internal estimates in terms of revenue and storage capacity in the worldwide open-networked storage market as of September 2012: VNX, VNXe, and Celerra NS can run any Flare or Dart operating system. The contribution of these products to the OS share has been estimated based on the proportion of NAS and SAN installations in these products (NAS—Dart; SAN—Flare).

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