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.
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: