Part three: Look to your operations staff for simplified storage management

Bits & Bytes: This tip explains why you need to work with your operations staff for successful and simplified storage management.

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Click to read part one and part two of Jim Booth's storage management series.

Simplifying storage management means more than adding software and consolidating. While these techniques are important, it is the people that make the difference. A great plan ignored or shelfware left uninstalled are usually the result of operational personnel not being involved in the decision-making or problem-solving process. Operation personnel are a critical component to simplifying the overall storage management process. Software and hardware can aid in the normal operations of storage personnel, but it is the processes and roles that people provide that make everything work. The challenge is to simplify storage management processes without disrupting normal daily operations. To accomplish this, there must be a clear understanding and clean integration of storage management and operations. Let's look at some common storage management roles and how they interface with operations.

Asset management: Where am I?

Keeping track of hardware and software can be a full-time job in a large organization. Storage management practices that enable operations to quickly and easily view how assets are being used are critical. Operations will be most concerned with metrics with boundary conditions such as file system, storage volume and storage subsystem utilization. Storage management can best ease operational impact by understanding the need to visualize and monitor all hardware and software at all times.

Change management: Where am I going?

Once you know where everything is and how it is being used, the next logical step is to understand how storage changes work within operations. If there is a ticketing system in place, storage management and operations should be reviewing the same information. For example, if new hardware is coming in for a new application, operations should know about this and have input on the decision. This will enable you to incorporate new hardware into the current operational environment smoothly and with few surprises (such as waiting for power or cabling).

Storage architecture: How do I get there?

More strategic and longer-term planning is the domain of the storage architect and operational architecture of the organization. This includes major changes to the storage environment. Some examples might be a new storage management software platform or backup system. The storage architect most look at the long-term impact of architectural changes to the storage infrastructure and how these will affect operations. If they do not fit or can be phased into how the company is currently doing business, there will be integration problems that may delay or cancel a project.

Key points

1. Bring operations into the decision-making process early when making storage management changes.
2. Understand how the storage management solutions affect all areas of operations and roles -- asset management, change management and storage architecture.

In conclusion, it is important to note that the devil is indeed in the details. In talking recently with a storage architect, he told me that they had to pre-provision storage and servers since there was a five-day operational lead time needed to run Fibre for new HBA connections to the storage area network (SAN). No matter how hard anyone tries, no storage management practice has figured out how to physically run cable. Operations will always be a key component to any storage management endeavor.

In the final installment of this column, I will discuss storage provisioning practices to further simplify storage management processes.


About the author: Jim Booth is the managing director of systems engineering at Creekpath Systems, an industry author and founder of the independent storage research group, Hard-Problem, Inc.. Jim also serves as one of SearchStorage.com's experts on storage management and storage administration-related issues. Ask him a question today, or click here to learn more about Jim's background.

This was first published in April 2003

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