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Reaching toward unity

Mahmoud Mounir, Software Director, HP Middle EastStorage resource management (SRM) products provide the means for collecting information on the heterogeneous resources – operating systems, host computers, and SAN devices such as Fibre Channel switches and storage arrays – that exist on shared storage networks. Delivered as software or dedicated appliance, these tools collect information to help increase utilization, assist storage provisioning, and improve performance of the storage area network (SAN), IP SAN or network-attached storage devices. Storage resource management products can provide a host of functions; typically these tools offer capacity planning and management; performance, event, and quota management; SAN design, provisioning, and workflow automation; analysis, change, and configuration management; and reporting features. A repository is often included for storing discovered information, as is a centrally managed console.

“With more business applications and compliance requirements, optimizing the usage of storage systems became very important where fast configuration provisioning and correct storage resource allocation are the main objectives. This is where SRM steps in. In addition, proper availability and performance of Storage systems is another driver for acquiring SRM solution to monitor and report about all storage systems from multiple vendors from a centralized location,” says Mahmoud Mounir, Software Director, HP Middle East.

Hani Esber, GM-Middle East, CommVault, adds that customers buy SRM software to keep track of their application and unstructured data growth and to understand who is doing what and where changes might cut costs, improve reliability and productivity. “For example, 2 year old data on Tier 1 storage is a waste just as critical data sitting on a box that just suffered an outage due to lack of redundancy will cost you money or customers.”

How does SRM work?

Storage resource management (SRM) software collects information on the heterogeneous resources – operating systems, host computers and SAN devices such as Fibre Channel switches and storage arrays – on shared storage networks. Information is collected to help increase utilization, to help with storage provisioning and to improve performance of the storage area network (SAN), IP SAN or network-attached storage devices.

Unlike tools that handle storage management tasks like backups, SRM tools provide a central view of either physical storage resources such as RAID systems, tape libraries and SAN switches or of logical storage objects such as volumes, files, users, database tables and I/O.

According to Gartner, SRM packages should contain:

* A repository for the resources that are discovered;

* The ability to plan capacity and manage it;

* Performance, event and quota management;

* SAN design, provisioning and the automation of workflow;

* Root-cause analysis, change and configuration management; and

* Reporting and chargeback.

Once storage resources are discovered, they need to be stored in a database so that the state of the SAN can be assessed and provide information for historical and future trending. Data is stored in the repository by size, creation date and owner if it is a file, and by capacity and performance if it is a storage system.

Capacity management includes the ability to identify use of resources and to reclaim unused capacity if necessary. The software should also let the user determine when it is necessary to acquire more disk space or improve performance. It should predict storage utilization by business unit, application, user, server or department.

In managing performance, SRM software should look at the relationships between applications, servers, host bus adapters, switches and storage arrays, and let users monitor and diagnose performance problems and bottlenecks caused by different resources in the SAN or by configuration changes.

Quota management lets the IT administrator set disk limits by user, department, group or business unit and monitor the disk for out-of-disk conditions. Within quota management, rules can be created that enforce the type of files being saved.

Event management is the recognition of triggers or alerts that may signal out-of-disk events or performance issues. It is important that the event management function be integration with systems or network management packages.

SRM packages should also include tools that make it easier for the IT administrator to provision more storage when the quota management and capacity management pieces indicate it is necessary. Provisioning includes the ability to assign storage volumes to host computers and applications or to delete these relationships or change them. SRM should also include tools that allow SAN design verification. Automating the workflow of commonly occurring operations is also an important feature of an SRM package because it allows the dynamic operation of error-prone manual processes.

Finally, an SRM package must have three other capabilities – reporting, chargeback and a central management console. Reporting is necessary so the IT administrator and upper management can assess the effectiveness of the SAN. Chargeback is a recommended function in that it allows IT to charge departments, business units or groups of users for their use of storage resources.

In addition, each SRM package should have the ability to manage storage resources from a Web-based management console, scalability to adapt to large or small environments and integration with systems and network management packages.

SRM packages should span a variety of operating systems – Windows, Linux and Unix servers – as well as a wide variety of storage systems and applications such as messaging and databases.

“Entry level SRM software will report on what data you have, how old it is and who owns it, allowing you to predict the effect of archiving and sending warnings if free-space level's become critical. More advanced SRM will add functions like trending and have plug-ins for databases and email, helping you to tune and set policies to control use or growth,” says Esber. Top level SRM systems have all of this but can also generally report on backup & archive as well as primary data and offer charge-back reports and give insight into media usage and efficiency. The backup side shouldn't be under-estimated as most organisations will have ten times more data stored in backup & archive than on primary systems and this is often where the biggest savings can be made, he adds.

Mounir says another major function of SRM is to be part to the Runbook Automation system to be able to deliver end to end configuration provisioning and management for a complete IT Service across all IT Infrastructure domains such as Network, Servers and Application for better operation of enterprise data centers.

With an explosion in data growth, regulatory and compliance mandates and growing heterogeneity within data centres and storage environments, customers can ill afford to overlook the importance of SRM in driving business growth.

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