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Data management tools
SRM packages: A closer look
By Rick Cook
When comparing storage resources management (SRM) products you have to keep in mind which features really matter to you. While this is true of most applications, it is especially important with SRM products because SRM is a fairly fuzzy term and vendors often add features that are outside what most would consider SRM's core function.
For example, managing e-mail archiving is arguably a storage management function and a number of vendors, such as IBM (Tivoli Storage Manager), Veritas (NetBackup) and EMC (Legato NetWorker) have e-mail management features. But an SRM product with an e-mail archiving and management feature doesn't do you much good if you use a third-party e-mail archiving and management product, such as Mimosa Systems Inc. NearPoint.
SRM started with glorified report generators, which gathered and organized statistics on storage utilization, performance and such. Later, SRM products added the ability to actually manage storage as well as report on it. However, different SRM packages tend to have very different mixtures of information and management features.
Some packages will let you drill down as deeply as the individual spindle on an application but may not offer the sophisticated management features found in other SRM products.
In part, this is because there is a difference of opinion among storage administrators about what they want SRM to do. Some administrators want to be able to manage their storage resources from the SRM package. Others prefer to use SRM strictly for information gathering and reporting and do the actual management with other kinds of storage management tools.
Handling heterogeneous environments
SRM products vary widely in their ability to handle environments with multiple operating systems and products from multiple vendors. Products tend to trade granularity and control for openness. In other words, products tend to trade detailed reports and fine control for the ability to work in a heterogeneous storage environment.
Detail versus ease
Another continuum in the SRM world is between detail of reporting and degree of control and ease of installation and use. Some products, such as EMC Corp.'s Control Center and Veritas' Command Central, try to provide broad, deep control over storage. That tends to make them harder to install, configure and learn than products with more modest goals.
How much information do you really need?
While information is generally a good thing when it comes to systems management, there is such a thing as too much information. With the constantly falling price of storage devices and other hardware, at some point the cost of gathering the information exceeds the benefit you can derive from having it. At the present time, that is a highly enterprise-specific and subjective decision. In making it, keep in mind that the cost of gathering information is far more than the raw cost of the SRM system. It includes the configuration cost and analysis costs as well.
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About the author: Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years, he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.
19 Jan 2006
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