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How do you manage your SAN?

Centralize for better management.

How do you manage your SAN? Chances are, if you're like the administrators in most companies, then it's done with a hodgepodge of hand-drawn diagrams, spreadsheets, computer-generated drawings, and a lot of seat-of-the-pants decision making. But there can be better ways, and one is to centralize this management into one location, and make it the responsibility of one person, or, if your organization is large enough, one team.

Now that's OK, of course, but the problem with it is that you'll never keep things up to date. You know that as you get mired in the day-to-day activities of running the shop that things you ought to do somehow just don't get done, until there's a problem.

And how do you know there's a problem? Usually when users start complaining that something isn't going fast enough, or isn't working right. Then starts the seat-of-the-pants troubleshooting effort that takes a lot of time before it finally succeeds. This is particularly troublesome when the problem is in your SAN, whether in the disks, or the switches, or even in the cabling between the devices, because that means data isn't available, and you're losing money as long as that situation continues.

Now it's true that in many small organizations the administrator knows what's in the SAN; the data is all in his/her head, and so problem resolution is a quick thing. But what if that administrator leaves the organization?

A better answer is to use some sort of management tool, of which there are legion. They provide the centralized storage of the SAN organization, and a database of the switches, IP addresses and so forth in the SAN. They are standards-based, so that they work with more than one vendor's products, and they can let you look at what's going on in your SAN from a number of points of view.

IBM has a Redbook available on its website that discusses the general need for and characteristics of SAN management software. Of course, IBM thinks its Tivoli solution is great, but there are others as well. Fujitsu, Computer Associates and Brocade are just a few examples of companies offering SAN management solutions.

David Gabel is the executive technology editor of TechTarget Inc.

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