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Juggling act: Multi-vendor storage

datacenter_620x250Nikhil Premanandan, Marketing Analyst, ManageEngine, discusses the appropriate tools for managing multiple vendors within an enterprise storage environment.

According to SAP, 90 percent of the data in the world has been created in the last two years. The company further estimates that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created everyday as a result of the boom in social networking, the rising number of Internet and smartphone users, and the content being shared online. Meanwhile, in a recent study, Cisco estimates that mobile data traffic will grow at a CAGR of 61 percent from 2013 to 2018.

According to IDC, enterprise storage typically grows by 35-40 percent per annum, driven in large part by the adoption of virtualisation. Desktop and server virtualisation have taken the physical storage outside the appliance thereby creating a need for specialised storage devices. The data in these devices is backed up over and over again adding to the need for more and more storage space.

Enterprises now face the challenge of selecting the right devices to store their precious data. They can go with either a single vendor or a multi-vendor storage strategy. Introducing a second storage vendor helps companies get the best prices from vendors and thereby reduces total cost of ownership by at least 15 to 25 percent over a five-year time frame, according to Gartner. It also helps avoid vendor lock-in.

While a multi-vendor strategy helps reduce costs, it also requires the integration of myriad devices in a storage network, which increases complexity. After all, each device type comes with its own management console. Integrating all of the tools into a single console is a challenge for the storage admin who must counter-productively juggle between different consoles to isolate a performance bottleneck.

Even with those separate tools, the admin will never be able to isolate the layer in which the issue resides, e.g., the RAID, switch, or server layer. Managing systems in a multi-vendor storage environment can be a nightmare for a storage admin. With different vendors supplying different device types, each with different attributes, a new set of integration and monitoring challenges has emerged. And the admin needs a comprehensive solution: a third-party, multi-vendor storage management tool.

Third-party, multi-vendor tools are the right way to go for storage admins who want to monitor their storage arrays, FC switches, tapes, and host and backup servers from a single pane of glass.  A multi-vendor storage management tool typically monitors the basic statistics of hardware and its components like disks, controllers, switch ports and LUNs. It can also be used to generate capacity and performance reports of different storage devices connected, which is an essential feature of this tool.

Some of these third-party tools have additional, useful features that can help storage admins in their duties. Some of the tools provide a dynamic, graphical representation of the entire storage infrastructure to help the admin isolate issues instantly. With this feature, interconnect issues and port malfunctions can be identified at a glance. Many of the enterprises do not have a scientific approach for forecasting their storage requirements. Automated scheduled reports on the configured capacity, capacity used, and capacity forecast – from the monitoring tool itself – go a long way in justifying storage purchases.

Storage admins may believe the features mentioned above are exhaustive, but they would be overlooking the most important part of any storage network – backup and recovery. Backup servers are an essential element of any backup strategy and monitoring backup servers for their performance and health is inevitable. Multi-vendor storage monitoring tools wouldn’t truly be “multi-vendor” if the storage admin had to switch to the backup server’s web client to monitor backups. For a comprehensive storage monitoring solution, integration of backup servers is essential but offered by only a few vendors.

Current trends like flash devices and SDS are gaining momentum, and vendors need to add support for these devices to ride this wave. With rapid innovations in storage technologies and trends, vendors have to ensure that their solutions offer the latest features to attract the early adopters.

Bottom line, admins have to select a storage management vendor that has augmented its product to include all the aspects of a storage environment. The solution should be comprehensive to ensure that admins do not have to use another tool for monitoring their storage infrastructure. Only then can multi-vendor storage management tools truly empower storage admins to effectively manage the data explosion taking place on their networks.


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