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Take two aspirin and manage your storage

Managing all that storage is giving the average user a splitting headache, according to an exclusive survey. Unfortunately, they say it will take a lot more than a couple of aspirin to relieve the pain.

We know what the Tylenol and Pepto-Bismol is for.

Managing all that storage is giving you a splitting headache and probably an upset stomach, too. But take heart. Misery loves company and you're certainly not alone.

Index to full report

According to an exclusive survey of 353 storage professionals, managing storage and backup and recovery are major sources of frustration. Users say that the tools they need are woefully lacking. And sometimes it seems as if upper management doesn't understand the issues, respondents said.

Thirty-four percent of respondents said they need better management tools, and 33% said their backup and recovery operations come up short. Additional migraine-makers: problems with interoperability, staffing and budgets.

Trying to convince his higher-ups that he needed new technology to build a business continuance plan for disaster recovery gave Jerry NeSmith a pain right between the eyes.

"My main problem is getting IT to support a purchase," he said, though he recalls one recent success. "I finally got my management to believe that it was a good way to go. They never really thought about disaster recovery until recently."

As IT manager for the facilities management department of Atlanta-based Emory University, NeSmith is responsible for all aspects of IT within the department, including maintenance and utilities.

NeSmith said he has to rely on Emory's central IT department for his IT infrastructure. Specifically, Emory's infrastructure uses EMC Symmetrix storage arrays, which are too expensive to use as part of a cost-effective disaster recovery environment, he said.

"The [problem] that I'm facing right now is that they're not providing me with business continuity infrastructure," NeSmith said. "I can't afford to do that with EMC."

Without a redundant storage network, NeSmith might experience downtime in the event of an emergency. He would not be able to access building plans and other critical information for use by rescue and fire personnel.

NeSmith has finally managed to convince management to loosen its purse strings and buy a half terabyte of Network Appliance storage for replication purposes. He is awaiting the installation.

Show me the tools

Experts agree that storage management technology has to improve if users are going to cure their storage ills.

"Users are faced with the universal issue of having to manage more, with less people and money," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst for Enterprise Storage Group Inc., Milford, Mass. "Traditional methodologies won't cut the mustard much longer."

As a senior storage engineer for Seattle-based Washington Mutual Inc.'s Technology Solutions Group, Tim Hicks designs SANs of all shapes and sizes at data centers across the country. Having the fifth largest switching infrastructure in the world makes his biggest problem complexity.

"Isolating a specific problem through the overall complexity is my biggest problem on a daily basis," Hicks said.

Hicks said Washington Mutual's IT networks run on systems from EMC and IBM, but that today's management software is lacking.

"EMC's ControlCenter seems to be one of the front runners for managing [multi-platform] storage," Hicks said. "But most management platforms will do zoning but not LUN mapping because they stop at the Fibre adapter."

However, the industry is making some progress in managing storage networks.

Earlier this year, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and its member companies, which include IBM Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Veritas Software and Sun Microsystems, developed and submitted a draft specification that applies open standards in the creation of a management solution for interoperable, multi-vendor SANs.

Code-named "Bluefin," the specification uses the Common Information Model (CIM) and Web Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) technology to manage resources in a multi-vendor SAN through common interfaces. It is expected to improve storage management applications and provide management interoperability within heterogeneous SANs.

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