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Q. Many IT organizations use only the built-in tools that come with their storage products. Beyond those tools, are there any types of storage resource management tools that you consider essential for the effective administration of a storage environment?
A. There's a lot of available software that can give you information on your environment. But the problem with storage arrays in a majority of built-in tools is that they're designed to be element managers and can manage only the device. They can't look into your servers, systems and applications. So you really need to start with a base product from a vendor and then determine where the problems are to better analyze the environment and make a more informed decision on the tools you purchase.
What a lot of people do is write their own scripts linking to the application, file server and the LUN [logical unit number], but people often forget that it costs a lot of money to write and maintain those scripts. So again, it's not really a sustainable way of working. The solution is to go with a simple SRM solution; determine what you need, start small, and get something that will show you the whole relationship between virtualized servers and standard servers.
A. I believe that storage management closely follows the economic climate. When the economy is doing well, budgets are loose and storage managers may have the ability to spend their way out of problems. So in today's current economy, management is really starting to look at problems, processes and procedures in more detail, and spending decisions typically need to go further up the management chain. People are now more financially accountable and are starting to look at capacity planning in more detail. This is really where SRM tools start to come into their own.
SRM has been around since the mid- to late '90s and most of these tools, even in the early days, justified the expenditure on them because you can analyze your environment and reclaim orphan storage. So some of these tools can quickly pay for the cost of purchasing them and then help you in the long term with forecasting, planning and determining where hotspots are.
A. As always, it depends on your requirements. Some companies feel safer with the larger suppliers. The larger vendors have much bigger tool sets and can accomplish a lot more. However, most users can probably leverage 80% of the benefit of these tools by using only 20% of the features. As they mature, they may grow into fully featured, complex and automated provisioning tools.
But for just getting started and achieving cost savings by reclaiming storage, lots of the smaller, more niche vendors provide very good SRM tools. They may, however, not have the device management, problem determination or automated provisioning of the larger vendors.
Many users in the past that bought and installed everything from larger vendors didn't succeed because their projects were too big. So what I recommend based on the failures of the past, is to go with a smaller tool because you don't need the device management that comes with the devices. The smaller tools can look into virtualized servers, support the majority of today's storage devices and provide you with 80% of the benefit for 20% of the effort.