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Storage area management, part 3: Element management vs. resource management

Element vs. resource management

Once upon a time, you bought a bunch of storage products. Each one had its own management interface or tool. In most cases, each of these products provided a mechanism to report into a higher level framework. But better management tools were developed that could manage groups of similar products, including all of your Fibre Channel switches, all your storage arrays and so on.

Much more interesting, though, is that through the use of standards-based management interfaces, there are now a number of tools that can manage the different parts of the infrastructure -- the servers, the storage network, the disk arrays and the tape systems within a single storage management tool. This is great news if a team uses one management tool rather than several; they will then be better accustomed to that tool and better able to manage the systems.

But, you may not want one single storage management tool.

At a basic, you can separate the activities of storage administrators into two main areas: daily activities and occasional activities. On a day-to-day basis, the storage administrator has to allocate disk capacity to applications, manage the backup and restore activities, monitor performance and availability levels against SLAs, monitor available spare capacity and storage utilization, etc. Occasionally, the administrator has to implement new storage arrays, change or extend the SAN, deploy new versions of software or firmware throughout the storage infrastructure and other control-type activities necessary.

At this hands on level, most environments need three main management tools, which I list here with an indication of some of the functions in each area.

1. Storage provisioning and monitoring tools
- Creation of LUNs - Selecting the most appropriate LUN on the most appropriate array for a particular application
- Managing selective presentation on your disk arrays
- Setting up the zoning in the SAN to allow a server to access the LUN
- Setting up the HBA, multi-pathing software and volume management software on the server so the application can see the new capacity
- Monitoring the availability, performance and capacity on an application-by-application basis

2. Data backup/recovery/archiving tools
- Off-site replication of online data
- Full and incremental backups
- Full restores
- Partial restores
- Archiving and retention of little-used data

3. Configuration control and diagnostic tools
- Topology management
- Deploying new firmware revisions
- Fault root cause analysis
- Deploying new equipment

These may come from the same company, but you'll most likely want to get best-in-breed and purchase from separate companies. This is not a problem as each tool set is most likely used by a separate team in a large company, or at least a different times for carrying out different tasks in a small company. This means that in each toolset area you can make a strategic decision and select the best-in-class product or products that meet your business needs. In each area you can consider the use of products from your key OEM or from an independent software vendor, the use of large well-known product sets or products from companies specializing in these very different and focused areas.

When assessing products, don't forget to think about your long-term storage plans: Are you running small or large SANs? Do you use NAS? Do you look after one or more separate homogeneous environment? Do you manage your systems as a single heterogeneous environment? Are you thinking of moving to storage virtualization? Are you looking to move towards serverless backup? Some tools and companies will fit better depending on your thoughts in these areas though it's good to ask vendors about their long-term plans and alliances to make the appropriate selection.

The most important considerations are first and foremost to think about your existing environment. How do you think it may evolve over time, and how do you manage that environment today? Understand the priorities in your own business and how it is changing over time. Having done that, there are now some very good tools out there that can really help imagining your storage infrastructure. So where SAN and NAS technologies help you get more value from the same capital investment, the management tools allow you to manage that storage infrastructure more effectively and so help you truly deliver on the promise of SAN and NAS.

Click to return to Part 1.

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.

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