Storage spawns where it’s needed, from sensibly architected SANs serving transaction-intensive systems to storage appliances bought impulsively to fill a departmental need. That leaves IT to manage many islands of storage strewn across the enterprise at a time when the need for centralized storage management has never been greater. Compliance requirements, multimedia-rich applications, and a proliferation of databases are pushing IT departments to increase the size and complexity of storage networks across the enterprise.
“I tell our senior management that we grow our storage at a rate of 40 to 50 percent per year and they can’t believe it,” says Lev Katz, datacenter operations manager for EMC storage customer MidAmerica Bank. “But then, if our business grew 30 percent last year, it makes sense for storage to grow the same amount, if not more. You have that many more people, you have that much more e-mail, you have that many more files.”
Point solutions and hands-on labor are no longer enough. To help IT wrap its arms around the storage problem, major storage vendors such as AppIQ, Computer Associates, CreekPath, Crosswalk, EMC, HP, IBM, Softek, and Veritas offer a range of storage-management software that enables administrators to find and manage all the components of a storage area network.
“Automated storage management is an easy means to create operational efficiencies and help reduce IT costs,” says Matt Fairbanks, director of product marketing for storage management leader Veritas. ‘The IT workforce is more productive and they are able to deploy more assets, increase storage capacity, and reduce complexity.” (See our Test Center Reviews of Veritas CommandCentral and Veritas Backup Exec Suite.)
Each vendor’s applications vary in the number and type of SAN devices they support. If you’re lucky enough to have standardized on a single server platform and single storage vendor on a single Fibre Channel SAN, your environment will be relatively easy to install and manage. Distributed, heterogeneous, wide-area SANs, however, can be tough.
“As coincidence would have it, 90 percent of our storage is EMC-provided,” says Scott Roemmele, SAN engineer team leader for online mortgage lender Quicken Loans. “But we do design most of our platforms to be open vendor — they don’t really have to be used with one particular thing. EMC Control Center actually has a lot of open-endedness to where it will actually recognize other vendors' storage as well.”
A Standard Solution
Currently, most would-be SAN and storage-management applications have to rely on published APIs from other vendors to enable communication. This is changing, however, with the widespread adoption of SMI-S (Storage Management Interface Specification) 1.0 for communication between SAN devices. So far, most management applications and the SMI-S specification only cover management of SAN hardware. Managing data is trickier, particularly ILM (information lifecycle management), which involves controlling data retention and the migration of data between storage tiers. InfoWorld explored ILM in “Taking charge of the enterprise information lifecycle”.