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While this feature sounds simple, it's important to understand the capabilities of each vendor. Critical to understanding actual utilization is the ability to define not only the allocated storage in the array, but the ratio of allocation to actual usage. You need visibility into the storage from both the array and the host. This coverage is quickly growing to include the ability to track snapshots and replicated data. When additional storage is provisioned for an application, it's important to understand all of the implications of that growth.

In addition to expanding features, SRM tool vendors are delivering these features while leveraging agentless technology. Host-based agents are hard to manage, consume server resources and introduce risk. Maintaining agents in an app environment that's growing in size and complexity can be a never-ending job. Some of the newer, more innovative startup products like Aptare Inc.'s StorageConsole Capacity Manager, MonoSphere Inc.'s Storage Horizons and Tek-Tools Inc.'s Profiler for VMware, take advantage of this agentless technology. Some of the more mature products leverage agents to provide information, but are making progress in reducing the number of agents required. Firms like EMC Corp. and Symantec Corp. have recently reduced the number of agents required and all are actively trying to eliminate them where possible.


Infrastructure reporting

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When users were asked which features they use on a regular basis, capacity utilization again came in first, while reporting, configuration management and backup reporting all tied for second. Reporting on relevant data so the company can make informed business decisions is obviously important. The keys to effective reporting are transparency and flexibility. You want to spend your time leveraging the information, not figuring out how to set up reporting software.

Innovative practices in this area allow for Web 2.0-like information sharing and database access so customers can construct customized reports using tools they're familiar with. For example Aptare's application can be accessed on an iPhone. EMC simplified the number of its prepackaged reports to just a few and then opened up access to its database for use with Crystal Reports and other third-party tools. Symantec launched Veritas CommandCentral Enterprise Reporter, which provides a global view of the enterprise storage environment, allowing users to link metrics from multiple data centers and consolidate reporting for the entire enterprise using simple, easy-to-use, drag-and-drop GUIs. This is an important addition to any company with multiple, geographically dispersed data centers.

The role of configuration management is expanding as well. Understanding the entire data center environment--and, more importantly, the relationships among all related devices--is becoming far more important as data centers grow in size and complexity. This is amplified by adding virtualization services to the mix. Being able to accurately understand how all of the pieces are connected or interrelated plays an integral role in troubleshooting outages and performance degradation. Going forward, discovering devices and reporting on their configuration will play an important role in automating manual processes. Onaro Inc.'s products are the best known in this space and will now deliver solutions as a part of Network Appliance (NetApp) Inc. Other notable players in this space include EMC's ControlCenter SAN Advisor, IBM Corp.'s Tivoli TotalStorage Productivity Center (TPC) and Symantec's Veritas Configuration Manager.

Backup reporting vendors have also expanded their offerings to include SRM capabilities. Those companies that have been forced to deal with regulations and compliance issues understand the importance of verifying that relevant data has been adequately backed up and is available for recovery. Aptare, Bocada Inc., Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. and Tek-Tools all offer integrated backup reporting. In addition to supporting backup operations, some vendors are focused on providing support for replicated environments. In the event of an application outage--or worse, if an entire data center needs to fail over--ensuring that the secondary site will be able to resume operations is paramount. Some of the larger storage vendors focus their offerings only on replication, while smaller vendors are trying to provide a wider range of applicability. Companies like Continuity Software Inc., NetApp's Onaro and Symantec are focused on heterogeneous environments, while IBM concentrates on IBM-specific products.

This was first published in March 2008

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