SRM tools require serious purchase consideration


Storage resource management (SRM) is the principle and practice of storage organization and utilization. Over the last few years, SRM tools have emerged to help administrators understand their evolving storage landscape, optimize utilization and performance, automate some of the most routine and error-prone management processes, and make informed decisions about future storage expenditures. SRM tools analyze the relationship between storage and the applications using that storage -- monitoring the capacity in each storage subsystem, the amount allocated to each application and the capacity actually being utilized by an application or server. Analytical results are then reported to the storage administrator who can make informed choices about storage issues, like utilization, capacity planning and storage budgeting.

Ultimately, choosing the right SRM tool can save unneeded storage expenditures and alleviates burdensome management time, but picking the right tool can be problematic. While the number of SRM tools is fairly limited, it's crucial to select a product that interoperates well in your environment, while providing the timely reporting and control features that you are looking for. Now that you've reviewed the essential issues involved in any SAN upgrade, this segment first focuses on specific considerations for SRM software. Following the considerations, you'll find a series of specifications to help make on-the-spot product comparisons between vendors, including BakBone Software Inc., CA Inc., EMC Corp., Onaro Inc. and others.

SRM Information
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Look for recent releases or frequent updates. There has been a tremendous amount of activity in the SRM market, and tools have been evolving rapidly to accommodate new storage platforms and technologies. When considering an SRM product, look for software that is less than one year old (if possible) or updated frequently to meet the constant changes in the industry. With SRM tools that have not been updated in over a year, you may find that ongoing support and updates may be problematic. Also, keep in mind that products from larger vendors may be more suitable for enterprise-wide deployments, while tools from smaller vendors may be easier to acquire for departmental use.

Look for deep integration and compatibility in your main areas of interest. Organizations that are mainly concerned with databases should first identify the databases in use across the business (e.g., Oracle or SQL) and then select an SRM tool that integrates well with those databases and the underlying storage subsystems. In these cases, vendor-specific SRM tools, like EMC's ControlCenter software, will often yield the best detail. However, if your main interest is managing files, opt for a more general SRM tool, like Veritas CommandCentral software, that is designed to accommodate a broad variety of network file servers. In terms of overall interoperability, tools that support standards, like SNMP and SMI-S, can also help interoperability between disparate storage systems.

Determine the role of software agents. Some SRM tools require the use of agents, while other SRM tools do not. Since agent software requires more maintenance and attention, storage administrators may prohibit the use of agents. If your organization's IT department prohibits the deployment of server agents, focus on "agentless" SRM tools and verify that your SRM tool can collect the required suite of data across your storage platforms without agents -- but remember that reporting may not be as detailed or comprehensive as the reporting from SRM tools that rely on agents.

Consider the availability and analytical value of reports. Any SRM tool will be required to produce reports. Verify that the tool can begin producing reports directly after installation and understand the contents of each report type. Testing the SRM tool in a lab setting will often allow you to experiment with reporting features and options that are most relevant for your particular organization. Know what information you need and ensure that the tool can provide it. Also, consider any analytical capabilities of the SRM software. In many cases, there is so much effort put into managing SRM tools and collecting data that meaningful data analysis is often overlooked. Test the tool's ability to process and analyze the data it collects and see that the tool can provide tangible advice and recommendations that can actually save money.

Consider the need for multisite support. The growth in distributed organizations often means that corporate data resides across two or more locations -- usually between a main data center and remote offices, or between regional data centers. Regardless of the way data is distributed, pay particular attention if your SRM tool will be used for centralized reporting across multiple sites. Only a few SRM tools can provide that capability, and it's certainly worth testing in advance of any purchase.

Evaluate integration with storage management suites. There is an ongoing trend to bundle SRM functionality with other tools to make a software suite. For example, a suite may include features, like data classification tools, information lifecycle management (ILM) capability, email or file archiving, or even encryption tools. Some organizations may find that opting for a software suite may ease integration problems if those tools are added separately. If the SRM component must coexist with other tools in the organization, evaluate the level of integration and see how those different tools work together (if at all).

The SRM tool product specifications page in this chapter covers the following products:

  • BakBone Software Inc.; NetVault Report Manager for Disk Space
  • CA Inc.; BrightStor Storage Resource Manager software
  • EMC Corp.; ControlCenter software
  • Hewlett-Packard Co.; HP Storage Essentials software
  • MonoSphere Inc.; Storage Horizon software
  • Northern Parklife AB; Northern Storage Suite SRM tool
  • Onaro Inc.; SANscreen software
  • Opsware Inc.; Opsware System 6 software
  • Sun Microsystems Inc.; StorageTek Operations Manager Software
  • Symantec Corp.; Veritas CommandCentral Storage software

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    04 Apr 2007