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Looking inside your storage system, Part II: Tools for troubleshooting production processes

By Linda Gail Christie

In the November 21st issue of "Storage Management," you learned about the tools available for testing storage hardware performance. Today, the experts at Shugart Technology, a developer of storage testing tools, will tell you about the troubleshooting production processes.

"It's important to utilize storage performance tests to make sure your processes are in good order," said Shugart Technology President and CEO, Richard Brechtlein. "Performing tests for data integrity, regression, and error recovery, particularly following upgrades to hardware and software, will prevent your data from being lost or corrupted."

Shugart Technology CTO and VP Engineering, Ed Barnes says you should use data integrity tests to make sure that internal devices, such as routers, are handling data properly under stressful conditions. "With Fibre Channel, for example, more than one computer can write to the same RAID array. Data integrity testing will tell you if the cache in the tape drive or RAID array is being maintained even during heavy activity, so your data doesn't get scrambled or delayed."

Barnes says that after updating firmware, administrators should perform regression testing to confirm that problems have not been introduced. "Sometimes, when firmware is updated, applications stop working," Barnes said. "The problem then becomes finding out how to get the system back online: Did a bug that was supposed to be fixed, not get fixed? Was the latest upgrade used? To avoid downtime, regression testing should be used to check compatibility in all directions. Typically, this must be performed by field service technicians using regression test diagnostics on a notebook computer."

Making changes to applications software also can wreak havoc. "If you change your applications software, it's important to ensure that each device will continue to handle all error conditions properly," said Barnes. "For example, if you send a bad parameter -- one that's out of range or invalid -- you want to know if your backup application is going to lock up. If it does, you'll not only be shut down, but you won't know whether to call your hardware or software vendor to fix the problem. If you use error recovery testing to verify your designs, you can avoid many of these problems."

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About the author: Storage management tips are written by Linda Gail Christie, a contributing editor based in Tulsa, Okla.

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