What you will learn from this tip: What to expect from the various types of storage management tools, and how to choose the right ones for your needs.
The first step in selecting storage management tools is to get a clear understanding of what storage management functions you are looking to address. Storage networking management addresses many different areas including configuration, diagnostics, resource monitoring, data protection and security. There are various types of storage and storage networking management tools that correspond to different management tasks and functions. These include application-focused tools that can profile data usage and access patterns from a file system, e-mail or database object perspective. Other tools are focused on overall storage networking providing a level of abstraction above vendor supplied device and element managers.
These tools and functions can be broadly categorized as:
- Vendor- and device-specific: Device and element managers
- Domain- and resource-focused: Storage network managers
- Framework systems: Network and enterprise management systems
- High level and application aware: Logical data managers
The next step is to determine which tool is best suited to your needs. Figure out how much you are willing to invest in resources (people, time, dollars) to research, assess and test tools for your environment. Storage resource management (SRM) and reporting tools help to facilitate lifecycle management of information, data and storage. SRM tools can be used to indicate where the storage exists, who it is allocated to, what the quotas are if they exist for usage, when the data was last accessed, and what size it is. Additional information includes what is the I/O activity in terms of bandwidth, I/O size and average response time associated with the files and their associated volumes.
The ability to monitor events and respond to alerts and alarms to determine when storage networking components need attention is a common management necessity. Notification can be done via e-mail, SNMP MIB traps, APIs, phone home and other mechanisms via device managers and other tools. Timely problem detection, isolation and determination can help to facilitate replacement and repair to improve availability. These tools help you determine that there is a problem, where there is a problem, the nature of a problem and could potentially provide suggestions for correcting the problem. More advanced monitoring tools may have event tracking capabilities to issue problem tickets and track incidents through resolution.
Some criteria for storage management tools include:
- Does the tool support multiple levels of user security and privileges?
- What interfaces does the tool support (FICON CUP, FAIS, FDMI, FC-GSx, SWAPI, IETF, SNMP MIB, call home, e-mail home, paging and SMI-S)?
- What is the architecture of the tool including platforms supported?
- What storage devices and storage networking components are supported?
- Does the tool leverage a common repository or database?
- What other software applications does the tool work with?
- What hardware devices and platforms are supported?
- Is the tool active or passive, what level of granularly of data does it present?
- Can the tool perform correlation with other events and activity?
- How disruptive is the tool, and how quickly can you become productive?
- What parameters exist and can be tuned to regulate data collection?
- What type of fixed and user definable reports can be created?
- Does the tool work with DAS, SAN and NAS environments?
- Does the tool support database, file systems, email and other applications?
- How is the tool licensed and what type of warranty exists?
Ultimately, the key to making the right choice of storage management tool is to have the right expectation of the applicable tools, and to understand of the storage management function being addressed.
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About the author: Greg Schulz is a senior analyst with the independent storage analysis firm, The Evaluator Group Inc. Greg has 25 years of IT experience as a consultant, end user, storage and storage networking vendor, and industry analyst. Greg has worked with Unix, Windows, IBM Mainframe, OpenVMS and other hardware/software environments. In addition to being an analyst, Greg is also the author and illustrator of Resilient Storage Networks, Greg has contributed material to Storage magazine. Greg holds both a computer science and software engineering degree from the University of St. Thomas.
This was first published in April 2005