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Storage area management, part 1: Supporting open management standards

Computer storage has been around for nearly as long as computers themselves. Today, the mechanisms for managing storage have never been more critical with the explosion of data, the advent of network-attached storage and storage area networks to help consolidate that data, and the tight economic environment in which we have to do more with less. While users agree that NAS and SAN are helping them significantly, many of them also complain that the slow development of management tools is the key bottleneck in taking their storage consolidation initiatives further.

Designed to be manageable

Storage manageability means more than just developing management tools. When I first started working, I went through an apprenticeship program for electrical engineers. We were taught that when you are designing something you have to test it, both on the production line as it is being manufactured and to fix problems that may arise after it has been sold. I believe that the same is true of storage-related products. It is vital that each and every component is designed to be manageable as a part of a cohesive storage infrastructure.

When making a product selection it is important to understand the research and development work that the product companies put into the components, firmware or operating systems that could be parts of the infrastructure you are building. Its really quite simple: Unless a box is designed to allow access to information about its operation, then

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that box will always be difficult to manage.

Open management

Of equal importance to manageablility of a box is having open access to the management interfaces. That means commitment to standards, whether formal open systems standards or defacto standards. As someone who has spent the last five years working with storage area networking, I've reitereated that one benefit of a SAN is that it decouples server decisions from storage decisions allowing for a best-in-bread approach. The support for management standards (FC-MS/GS/CT, SNMP, APIs, etc.) allows you to decouple server and storage decisions from management decisions.

So long-term commitment to standards moves us from components that are in theory manageable, to putting in place a robust management infrastructure so that the storage infrastructure is actually managed in practice. This is particularly important when we talk about management of the total infrastructure. After all, we need to manage the several layers within the server, the HBAs, the storage switches and routers, the disk arrays and tape libraries. Realistically that means that a good storage management product needs to manage multiple devices from multiple manufacturers. Without support for open management standards how can we ever get storage management products that actually deliver the functionality required?

Click for Part 2: Storage management vs. enterprise management


About the author:

About the author: Simon Gordon is a senior solution architect for McDATA based in the UK. Simon has been working as a European expert in storage networking technology for more than 5 years. He specializes in distance solutions and business continuity. Simon has been working in the IT industry for more than 20 years in a variety or technologies and business sectors including software development, systems integration, Unix and open systems, Microsoft infrastructure design as well as storage networking. He is also a contributor to and presenter for the SNIA IP-Storage Forum in Europe.

This was first published in January 2003

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