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Best practices: Tackling storage provisioning

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Provisioning: six levels of control

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At a minimum, provisioning implementation procedures must address six levels of control:

1. Storage. Volumes to be presented as LUNs are created by carving the physical disk into logical partitions, which may be grouped, to provide logical volumes. LUNs are assigned to an array controller port and mapped to servers using LUN masking. This may need to be done for multiple volumes on a single array for split mirrored volumes or on multiple storage devices for replication.
2. Network. The route from storage to host is configured, usually by zoning, which maps a specific target port within a storage device to a specific initiator port on an HBA. This is done mainly to minimize configuration error impact on the zone members.
3. Host. HBAs are configured and assigned or mapped to the appropriate switch port(s). The host is configured to make the target LUN usable by the server's applications. This may include running configuration and formatting utilities and applying volume management policies.
4. Application. Within the application that will be using the newly provisioned storage, activities--such as the creation of database table spaces--must be performed.
5. Data. Data may need to be migrated to the newly provisioned storage. This must be coordinated with mapping activities to ensure that the data is available to the application.
6. Management. Confirm that the new storage is mapped to the appropriate servers and applications in all management reporting, and added to backup schedules.

Developing provisioning procedures
With the prerequisites in place, a standard operating procedure (SOP) can be developed for provisioning storage in each class of service, on each storage technology and within each storage fabric. Write the base procedure first and then add details.

The SOP includes these major activities:

Processing the request. The first step is a review of what's required by the business unit. The following must be provided in the request:

  • Requestor ID and authority. The provisioning request must be authorized based on company policy and should contain identification and authorization data, such as business unit name, contacts, project information, etc.
  • Requested action. Requested actions may include new storage for a new application or server, additional storage for an existing application or server, reduction or deletion of allocated capacity or change of service level.
  • Provisioning requisition. This section states the amount of data, class of service and implementation date required and the applications or servers that need to access the data.

Planning and design. The planning process assumes that class of service decisions have been made, and that standards are in place, as well as tools and techniques to enable discovery, visualization and traffic analysis. The planning process has three key activities:

  • Mapping. Mapping identifies the components through which the newly provisioned data will pass. If new fabric or network is required, the business unit should be notified and timeframes negotiated for acquisition of additional infrastructure. The mapping component should include primary storage, backup storage, archiving storage and DR storage.
  • Bandwidth analysis. This involves assessing the impact of additional traffic that the request will generate. Current traffic on various components of the environment must be identified, as well as the current and projected loadings that the new data may trigger.
  • Optimizing design. Gaps in capability vs. projected needs must be addressed by adding to, reconfiguring, upgrading or otherwise redesigning the storage fabric and its components.
It's important to capture and document this process. The design process must also identify new components that are required, including a formal process that proves the components meet standards. Once the design has been validated to meet standards, class of service requirements, and compliance with policy on traffic, connectivity and failover, the design can be submitted for formal review and approval by a peer committee.

Implementing the request. Provisioning often involves groups outside the storage staff. For example, installing HBAs might be a system administration function. Development staff, DBAs and business analysts may also need to be involved. (See "Provisioning: six levels of control")

Anticipating automation
There may come a time when these activities can be captured in an application that will manage the workflow, notify the appropriate individuals and even perform the configuration activities. However, that day isn't likely to be here soon. Defining and developing the standards, tools and techniques outlined here is absolutely key to an orderly, low-risk provisioning process.

This was first published in September 2004

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