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Infrastructure views
One of the first items organizations want an SRM tool to provide is visibility into their storage infrastructure. SRM products can be categorized as offering four types of storage infrastructure views:

  • End-to-end
  • Global
  • Market niche
  • Business analytics
End-to-end visibility serves primarily systems, storage and database administrators who need to see activity from the application level to the disk spindle on the storage array. While a number of tools deliver this functionality, some are better suited for specific environments. For heterogeneous storage networks, HP's Storage Essentials 5.0 (formerly AppIQ's StorageAuthority) or Longmont, CO-based Creek-Path Systems' CreekPath Suite can gather, correlate and present deep technical information such as firmware levels, volume-to-disk mappings, tablespace layouts, and port and disk performance information. In single-vendor storage environments, HDS' HiCommand and EMC's ControlCenter would be better suited to provide similar data for environments where their hardware is prevalent.

Global visibility into an environment tells managers, capacity planners and storage admins how much capacity they have, where it's at and who/what is using it. Products such as Sun's Global Storage Manager (GSM) gather pertinent information from all components

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(such as storage arrays, FC switches, tape libraries and servers) and roll up summary information from the individual components to a central site. These products deploy agents that generally require less time to configure and install than products that provide an end-to-end view. That's because the agents are gathering less information, collecting it less frequently and providing only reporting rather than management capabilities for storage devices and servers in the environment.

SRM products from companies like Northern Parklife keep their software focused on specific niches within the larger SRM sphere. For instance, Northern Parklife's Northern Storage Suite includes modules for quota management, chargeback and Web portals. The eb portal component displays individual Web pages tailored for each user that show them information such as how much storage is being used, their 10 largest and oldest files, and suggestions for what files they may want to delete or archive.

The final view is business analytics, which provides organizations with an understanding of how their storage infrastructure can impact the applications using it. For instance, CA's BrightStor SRM and Sun's GSM can generate reports indicating which servers have only a single HBA or what databases reside on external disk. But they can also identify which applications would be impacted if a server's HBA should fail or indicate if a database is residing on 250GB 7,200 rpm SATA drives.

Data location and classification
SRM products provide new ways of identifying where data resides in the infrastructure and what type of data it is. Several SRM products now include more in-depth reporting on backup software, e-mail packages and NAS file servers. While most SRM applications already handle basic tasks like reporting on e-mail database sizes, and the ages and sizes of files on NAS, closer integration with these applications will be required in the future. With regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA and OSHA requiring organizations to quickly identify and locate specific files and e-mails in the enterprise, SRM tools may begin to take on some additional search features that are presently found in specialized indexing tools that produce rich sets of meta data. Vendors are also positioning themselves to provide classification of data stored in e-mail and NAS repositories, although these functions are still in their formative stages.

SRM software is becoming much more than a tool to manage storage devices, or report on file system or database utilization. SRM vendors are reshaping their products to become the very eyes and ears of the enterprise to obtain mission-critical information in realtime. New features that provide business analytics will help storage administrators to make better decisions regarding capacity utilization and the type of disk that best suits an application's data.

This was first published in January 2006

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