Veritas' StorageCentral formidable storage resource management application


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Usability and interface
StorageCentral's user interface is built around MMC, which offers a consistent view when interacting with other Windows-based administrative applications. Managed objects appear on the left, and the details of those objects can be manipulated in the right pane. Depending on whether you use Active Directory to manage your resources, the managed objects pane will either outline the local computer and your Microsoft network with their associated subheadings (managed objects, policies and reports) or outline your organizational units being managed by AD. However, the manageability and navigation of resources are consistent regardless of the approach you choose.

Administrators also can use the StorageCentral Explorer snap-in tool to access and manage storage resources from anywhere using Internet Explorer 5.5 or later.

One of the problems associated with SRM solutions is that they need to deal directly with storage users to request that they do something about their space utilization. StorageCentral e-mails report directly to users asking them to review a list of files that have not been accessed for a long time.

With StorageCentral, users can delete dormant files directly from the e-mailed report. This is important because in order for SRM solutions to be successful, user involvement has to be straightforward, easy and not disruptive. Allowing users to remedy problems without many additional mouse clicks should improve the likelihood of effective user participation in resource management.

StorageCentral 5.2 comes bundled with predefined policies and alarms that make it easy to start using the product quickly. The predefined elements can be modified to suit specific processing needs. And administration is simplified because Windows and Ontap commands can be executed within StorageCentral.

The product isn't intended as a discovery tool to tell you what physical resources--arrays, tape libraries and so forth--you have in your storage environment. Rather, it determines the amount of disk usage that an individual server or application is using. It does this by interrogating the NTFS to obtain meta data regarding the configured volumes on the server.

StorageCentral allows you to set soft limits with "overdraft" protection in your policies. For example, you can define a user quota at 100MB and an additional 10MB of on-the-fly storage. If the overdraft storage is used, the user is notified with a report that says the quota was exceeded. StorageCentral also can be configured to allow all open files to be saved, even if the save would put the user over the preset quota. The user is notified of the violation, but isn't in jeopardy of losing data.

That's as far as StorageCentral goes with provisioning storage. I'd like to have seen more in the way of actually provisioning or extending volumes on-the-fly to satisfy user appetites. SRM solutions should be more than quota management; they should address all of the tasks associated with monitoring (discovery), managing (policies) and provisioning storage resources end-to-end, on an application basis. Some form of hierarchical storage management (HSM) also should be included to provision the correct type of storage.

StorageCentral filters files by extension or by signature content. Because of the latter, simply changing the extension of a file will not circumvent a policy. File groups--which can be seen as a text file with a pattern-matching list of absolute pathnames--are used to determine which files will be prevented from being saved on the managed node's disks.

Policies can also be applied on a server basis. For example, if you deployed a large number of servers, applying a predefined computer policy would result in the target servers' devices and folders inheriting the standardized management policy.

StorageCentral adds support for Unicode characters. Unicode provides a unique number for every character regardless of platform, program or language. Widespread adoption of Unicode will allow applications to be ported anywhere and across computing platforms without reengineering. It's important to note, however, that there may be some compatibility issues with earlier versions of StorageCentral consoles, agents and collectors. Check with Veritas to ensure compatibility.

StorageCentral's reporting is rich, allowing you to modify bundled reports, e-mail reports and have users act on violations directly from mailed reports. When you receive a report, you can further distill it by applying additional filters and sorting. This means that you don't have to generate as many reports to satisfy each application owner. For example, one predefined report displays a list of files not being backed up. Instead of producing a report for each application server that comes online, you can distribute a generic report and let users filter and sort to view only the server and files they're interested in.

Other reports--such as the Duplicate Files and Show MP3 Files reports--can help reclaim storage space if duplicate files or prohibited media files are being improperly stored on the server or network-attached storage (NAS) device.

This was first published in May 2004

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