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Looking inside your storage system, Part I: Tools for troubleshooting hardware performance

By Linda Gail Christie

The complexities introduced by cobbling together disparate storage solutions have made it almost impossible for storage administrators to troubleshoot problems and improve storage performance -- unless they have the right tools.

"Unlike the telephone companies that developed testing and monitoring tools around industry standards, the computer industry has evolved quite differently," said Richard Brechtlein, President and CEO for Shugart Technology, a developer of storage testing tools. "In the storage business, everyone does it their own way, so there are few standard tools available. Consequently many people have to develop their own testing solutions, seek third party offerings, or rely on the services of field service engineers."

Shugart Technology CTO and VP Engineering, Ed Barnes says there are a number of methods for testing hardware performance. "Performance tests are important for measuring if devices meet specifications. If your specs are significantly lower, you may have compatibility issues or the devices may be configured wrong. There are a number of third party performance testing tools, such as Intel's I/O meter for testing disk drives; however, there's nothing currently available for testing tape drives or changers, something Shugart Technologies is working on."

Before launching newly designed systems, Barnes says that command sets need to be tested to see if they work correctly: SCSI read,

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write, and move medium commands, for example. Also, when new equipment arrives, such as a new tape library, it's important to make sure it performs correctly before bringing it online. However, Barnes said, "While third-party functional testing tools are available, none are provided by Windows NT. And, currently, only field service personnel have access to vendor tools."

With a tape library, it's often easy to spot problems -- a cartridge doesn't move or a tape doesn't spin up. However, Barnes said that most of the time, you'll have to call a field service engineer to do troubleshooting or fault isolation. "Management and backup applications may generate some error codes giving a few clues about the problem. However, these messages may not be accurate, especially if they come from applications. Troubleshooting a complex storage system usually requires the services of a field service engineer running automated diagnostics that may examine a hundred or more pass/fail clues to determine what's not working right."

In the next issue of "Storage Management," you'll learn about the methods available for testing data integrity, regression, and error recovery.

For more information about Shugart Technologies, visit their Website at: http://www.shugart.com/.

About the author: Storage management tips are written by Linda Gail Christie, a contributing editor based in Tulsa, Okla.


This was first published in November 2000

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