Making sense of data storage management options


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Storage provisioning tasks and tools

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Here's how tasks line up with tools. Note that not every task has a tool and that some tools have very limited spheres of application.

Software categories
Once you have a handle on the tasks you need to perform, you have to determine which software functionality is needed. Rather than rating each individual software package for applicability to each management task, we can categorize the available products according to some basic common features.

Will Spencer and I worked with some readers of the comp.arch.storage newsgroup to come up with a set of storage management software category definitions (see http://www.enterprisestoragemanagement.com/tools.shtml for more information). They are:

  • Accounting: measures the use of storage resources and allows reporting and chargeback
  • Application management: integrates application-specific functions--some are limited to usage visibility, others integrate backup or replication
  • Asset management: records hardware deployment and usage information
  • Capacity planning: metrics, forecasts future usage, recommends upgrades
  • Configuration management: records device configuration, automates change control for the architecture
  • Device management: manages end devices (storage arrays)
  • Information life cycle management: migrates data over time--some (hierarchical storage management) move data, others measure requirements
  • Performance management: measures performance of components, including devices and interconnects
  • Provisioning: automates presentation of storage to hosts
  • SAN design: automates the design of SANs
  • SAN management: manages the interconnection of devices
Create a matrix of tasks and software tools (see "Storage provisioning tasks and tools") to illustrate where each tool is useful. Then pick out only the high-priority tasks and you have a list of software requirements. For example, if we wanted to focus on automating the storage activation process, we would be interested in configuration management, device management, provisioning and SAN management software.

Configuration management software is lacking, and automated provisioning software might not be your cup of tea. This leaves device and SAN management software. So hardware vendor tools such as EMC ControlCenter or Brocade Fabric Manager would be obvious choices. You'd also want to look at AppIQ Manager, the CreekPath suite, Fujitsu Softek SANView, Hewlett-Packard OpenView Storage Node Manager and IBM Tivoli Storage Area Network Manager.

When making your storage management software choice, focus on software offering just what you need. Most supposed management suites are lacking in key areas, or are packing broad--but shallow--functionality. Focus on getting the best tool for just the tasks you need to perform. There's a distinct lack of integration options between various products, so having a diverse set is likely to breed confusion and limit the benefit of the tools to your organization.

Consider that more and more hardware is supporting the SMI-S (CIM/Bluefin) management interface specification, so look out for this. Keep in mind that software that uses standard database back-ends offers more opportunity for integration in the future. Watch out for limited configurability of functions such as reporting and cost accounting. Finally, note that some device management products can read from--but not write to--certain hardware, so make sure it works with your architecture.

This was first published in October 2003

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