SRM: No longer just ‘nice to have’

Posted on September 01, 2006

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Storage resource management (SRM) has evolved well beyond quota management and now includes functions such as SAN management.

By Ann Silverthorn

With data growth averaging 50% to 100% per year, companies are not only faced with rising hardware costs, but also with increased costs to manage their storage. Administrators have a tough time justifying additional personnel, and the amount of data is going to keep increasing, which would necessitate even more people power to manage it.

Storage professionals faced with out-of-control data growth are warming up to storage resource management (SRM) tools that navigate the storage environment for them. SRM can report on underutilized storage, identify stale or non-critical data that can be moved to less-expensive devices (or be destroyed), and help storage administrators accurately predict future capacity needs.

Mid-sized enterprises, which often find the device management software supplied by their hardware vendors to be sufficient in managing their storage, are showing more interest in SRM this year, according to John Sloan, senior research analyst at the Info-Tech research and consulting firm. “Last year, a lot of mid-sized enterprises were getting into storage consolidation for the first time or were broadening their storage consolidation projects. Now mid-sized enterprises have passed that point and are looking at how to manage their storage going forward.”

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SRM market revenues began picking up steam about two years ago, and the Gartner research/consulting firm forecasts a healthy 9.3% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2010, claims Dave Russell, Gartner Research vice president of storage technologies and strategies.

Data growth a major driver

International Data Corp.’s Laura DuBois, research director for IDC’s storage software program, explains what is driving data growth and the need for a way to manage it: “The sheer growth of networked storage will continue at rates between 50% to 100% annually and is driven by factors such as the convergence from paper to digital records, data retention regulations, fixed content and new media, and a lack of controlled processes or tools for the pruning and disposition of stale data,” DuBois explains. “These drivers, combined with the challenge of limited storage administration resources, highlight the need for storage management software tools [including SRM] that can reduce administration costs.”

Managing storage has become more costly and more of a challenge since SANs were first introduced. Many companies started out with one SAN and added storage networks, creating SAN “islands” and a storage management nightmare.

“SANs have created a lot of pain,” says John Kelly, a product manager in Hewlett-Packard’s StorageWorks division. “There are new levels of abstraction and new devices to support. SANs can’t be managed with Excel and Visio diagrams. When SANs grow, you need a way to automatically discover, monitor, and report on all the devices, including how they’re connected, what the worldwide names are, etc.”

However, storage administrators, who are already overwhelmed with managing their SANs, are often wary of bringing in new technology to tame the storage beast. Even if they have several different device-level interfaces to manage, they know those interfaces well.

IDC’s DuBois says that it’s not that people don’t need the functionality that SRM provides, but it’s more that the complexity has been a major hurdle. The technology has been slow to adoption because of long evaluation periods, deployment complexity, and the time that is sometimes required for installation.

Eric Harless, product manager of backup reporting and SRM at CommVault, concurs. “Often, the first six months of an SRM implementation involves cleanup-getting the environment in working order. Then SRM usage changes completely. Administrators can set up rules, alerts, and thresholds that will notify them of storage-hogging duplicate or prohibited files so they can manage their storage proactively.”

What is SRM?

Definitions for SRM continue to evolve, as does the role SRM plays in the overall storage management picture.

“Ten years ago, SRM was just data reporting. Three years ago, the definition of SRM started to change and included volume management, file systems, and the kitchen sink,” says Eric Pitcher, director of storage management at CA.

The primary goal of SRM, according to Gartner’s Russell, is to address the management of storage capacity, although SRM now encompasses a wide variety of additional functions. Russell says that in 2000, SRM tools focused on capacity, quota and asset management via a “single pane of glass.” In the 2003 to 2004 time frame, SRM started merging with SAN management and device management, but most often those applications were simply launched out of the SRM console without any integration. This year, features such as replication management are beginning to merge with SRM (see figure above).

Sean Derrington, senior group manager for product management at Symantec, gives his definition: “SRM is about having the real-time ability to understand which resources are being used in the storage environment, to be able to map from application to spindle, and…to be able to use proactive management and reporting capabilities to leverage storage resources as efficiently as possible.”

SRM + SAN management

Until recently, SRM and SAN management were regarded as separate technologies. However, as the definition of SRM evolved, it began to encompass SAN management.

EMC’s ControlCenter is a good example of a software suite that encompasses both SRM and SAN management. “SRM reporting, monitoring, and provisioning, as well as SAN management, monitoring, validation, and design, can all be done from a single console,” says Jon Siegel, senior marketing manager for EMC’s resource management software products.

Hewlett-Packard’s Storage Essentials also combines SRM and SAN management in a single platform, although HP’s File System Viewer-a module that offers basic file-level scanning, reporting, and monitoring-can be purchased as a stand-alone product.

CA offers SRM and SAN management either as stand-alone products or in an integrated suite, although CA’s Pitcher says that the majority of the company’s customers are more interested in the bundled suite.

Another example of a combined SRM and SAN management solution is IBM’s TotalStorage Productivity Center, which is a single platform with modules that snap in and use the same basic foundation technology, a single database, and a single reporting engine. Auto-discovery, file utilization, capacity management, device management, and SAN management are all performed via the same platform.

However, not all storage management software vendors have embraced the marriage of SRM and SAN management. One example is CommVault. “We don’t play in the SAN management arena,” says CommVault’s Harless. “We feel that many tools are provided through the disk array or other hardware vendors, and they are best informed about how to make changes. Our customers are not overly eager to implement automatic partitioning or zoning tools.”

Gartner’s (controversial) “Magic Quadrant for Combined Storage Resource Management and SAN Management Software 4Q05” demonstrates the merger of the two technologies. Gartner puts EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and Symantec in the “leaders” portion of the quadrant, with CA and IBM among the major “challengers.” According to the report, these vendors have “…solutions that address a broad spectrum of the storage resource [and SAN] management problem with road maps that will help them keep up with changing market requirements.”

But Jake Roersma, manager of network engineering at Priority Health, a large insurance company based in Grand Rapids, MI, isn’t necessarily buying into the idea of integrating SRM and SAN management.

With more than 130TB of storage, growing at a rate of more than 100% a year, the company has not yet been sold on a storage management solution that combines SRM and SAN management.

“If you’re going to make [a storage management solution] unified, it has to be easy. If it’s more complicated than using the individual tools, it’s not worth it,” says Roersma.

Of course, the SRM and SAN management market is not limited to the big players. “One vendor that has come through all the flux in the SRM market is Tek-Tools,” says IDC’s DuBois. “They’re not trying to be all things to all people. The company has very modular software, unlike other tools where you have to install everything to get the functionality of one area.”

Brian Radovich, a product manager at Tek-Tools, says of the company’s Profiler suite, “Not every customer has a need for all of the tools. Reporting can be broken down into categories like back-end reporting on arrays, file-level reporting, and backup reporting. So if customers only need reporting on some of those categories, they only have to buy those modules. Later on, they can add more pieces to get a better view of the whole environment.”

Many things to many people

Although Gartner’s Russell acknowledges that SRM is many things to many people, he whittles the major SRM functions to eight: auto-discovery, storage provisioning, quota management, file-level utilization, array utilization, backup and recovery reporting, workflow management, and SLA management (see figure, above). Workflow management and SLA management were added to Gartner’s SRM lineup this year.

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Following are the eight major SRM functions, with product examples:

Auto-discovery

Onaro’s SANscreen, for example, focuses on the storage infrastructure and automatically discovers all the devices that are in the SAN. It then reports on the services that the infrastructure provides to applications in terms of capacity, access, recoverability, and performance. It audits all the changes in the environment and creates an alert if someone has made a device-level change that impacts a service.

Storage provisioning

The Symantec/Veritas CommandCentral Storage product identifies hotspots in the environment so administrators can provision additional storage or move data to another spindle. Data can also be moved to different tiers. In addition, administrators can use the workflow capabilities of CommandCentral to provision storage.

Quota management

NTP’s QFS software specializes in quota management for all types of storage infrastructure environments (e.g., SAN, NAS, RAID, etc.). QFS allows organizations to set and enforce policies that limit storage consumption, control the type of data that users can store, and limit how long data may reside in storage.

Rick Johnson, a system administrator at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT, uses NTP’s QFS for quota management. Quota management can be difficult because the university has personal shares, departmental shares, and interdepartmental shares. Quotas can’t be set according to the users or owners of a file. Johnson also has to be careful about blocking content, since some content that would be out of place at a business might actually be used as educational material.

“QFS allowed us to set up groupings based on share point, regardless of who wrote the file,” says Johnson. “If the file is in that share, I want it to apply to that share’s quota. I don’t care who wrote it.”

Northern’s Storage Suite also specializes in quota management, notifying users when they reach a specified percentage of their storage allotment. Users can follow a link to their own storage portal where they can view the files in their share. The Northern Storage Suite displays the users’ largest, oldest, and duplicate files. They can then view the content of the files and delete the ones they no longer need.

File-level utilization

Tek-Tools’ Profiler software, for example, reports on volumes, file systems, and individual files, and reports on attributes such as file owner, file type, and age of the file. “We can move and delete files, but we don’t do HSM [hierarchical storage management],” says Tek-Tools’ Radovich.

Array utilization

Virtually all SRM software can report on raw capacity on arrays and how much has been assigned, and can track that over time. It can report on how LUNs are allocated and map them back to the hosts. SRM software also reports on performance.

Backup and recovery reporting

Sun’s Business Analytics software reports on multiple backup-and-recovery platforms, such as Symantec/Veritas NetBackup, EMC Legato NetWorker, and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. The SRM software also reports on configuration, utilization, and performance of tape libraries.

Workflow management

Some SRM products have workflow management features that allow certain tasks to be automated. For example, CommVault’s QiNetix Storage Manager tracks volume capacity growth and will kick off data migration to move old files out of a volume and free up space.


CA’s BrightStor Storage Resource Manager provides centralized management of storage resources for both distributed and mainframe systems with a global view of storage capacity, allocation, and usage.
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The Northern Storage Suite features a “storage assistant” that automates storage management processes. Administrators can set the storage assistant to go out, say, every Monday morning at 5:00 AM and delete any MP3 files it finds. The software can also archive old files.

Automating storage administrators’ tasks may be a function that analysts and vendors like more than the administrators themselves, who often don’t like to give up control. However, automation is designed to save the storage administrators’ time and also to reduce the chance of human error during a manual process. It’s particularly helpful in shops that do not have dedicated storage managers.

The Austin Radiological Association, based in Austin, TX, employees 700 people, 68 of whom are physicians. Austin Radiological runs 14 clinics, staffs 10 hospitals, and has one large business office. It currently stores approximately 30TB of medical images and adds capacity at a rate of about 50% per year.

Jack Udell, manager of data-center operations for Austin Radiological, uses EMC ControlCenter (ECC) for storage device and SAN management. Austin Radiological has 80 HP and Dell servers, an EMC Symmetrix DMX, and some EMC Centera platforms. He relies on alerts from ECC and his system monitor platform, Spectrum, to tell him when disks are running out of space.

Udell prefers to keep control of his environment and is not interested in automated SRM services, such as auto-provisioning. “I don’t want automatic,” says Udell. “I want easy.”

SLA management

CommVault’s QNet ServiceManager provides centralized reporting on secondary storage and also on the primary storage information collected by the QiNetix Storage-Manager. Arriving at a “Q Factor” percentage rating, QNet allows storage managers to view current success or failure rates of storage operations.

With Tek-Tools’ Profiler, if an SLA says all storage has to be at some minimum usage-say 60%-the software can build a report to help fulfill that SLA. The report will show all the hosts under a certain CPU usage.

That covers the eight major categories that Gartner identifies for SRM. Here are a few more functions found in some SRM products with accompanying product examples:

What-if analysis

HP’s Storage Essentials, combined with File System Viewer, allows users to see the data path from file to drive, and it monitors performance and dependencies. “If users need to upgrade their firmware on, say, their Brocade switch, they can see the path upward and see how it will affect their file server or Oracle database,” says HP’s Kelly.

With CA’s BrightStor SRM, if users want to add tiers of storage or bring in another vendor, the software will tell them if they have to upgrade firmware and drivers, or alert them if one piece of hardware will not be compatible with another.

Root-cause analysis

EMC took the root-cause analysis capabilities from its Smarts acquisition and extended them to the storage domain. Smarts Storage Insight helps users pinpoint the storage-resource problems that are the most critical so they can be remedied first. “It helps users navigate a ‘sea of red’ [a series of red alerts],” EMC’s Siegal explains. “A lot of those red alerts might be symptoms of a single problem. So instead of chasing the alerts, administrators can focus on what the root cause of all those alerts is.”

Business analytics

CA’s BrightStor Storage Command Center takes the technical data provided by other products in the BrightStor suite and provides information to mid-level and upper-level management about what is going on in the storage environment from a business point of view.

Integration

Many SRM products integrate to some degree with network and systems management platforms, database administration software, or data classification solutions.

HP’s Storage Essentials, for example, integrates with HP’s Systems Insight Manager server-management software, which ships with all HP servers. For the mid-market, where system administrators are often responsible for both servers and storage, this integration provides a common log-in. Since it’s Web-based, administrators can browse from one product to the other. In addition, the two products share discovery, so when a new IP address of a server or storage device is discovered, Systems Insight Manager tells Storage Essentials to gather storage data about the new hardware.

CommVault’s QiNetix storage management products also provide a high level of integration. “In a typical IT environment, backup, anti-virus scans, database repairs, and defragmentation run at night. Our Data Classification Enabler reduces the number of data collections by CommVault products down to one,” says CommVault’s Harless. By integrating with backup, archive, replication, and SRM we can cut data collection down from hours to seconds, even in large environments.”

SRM issues

Most SRM products use host-based agents. They aren’t a drawback if handled correctly, and their benefits usually compensate for any processing power they take up.

“Agents are a necessary evil. Without [widespread adoption of] standards or until all storage talks the same language, we need agents,” says Info-Tech’s Sloan.

“To minimize the impact on performance, our agent distribution is an automated process,” says CommVault’s Harless. “It’s a push install with a low agent footprint. The agents collect data in low-priority mode. Agent-less technology, although exciting, can’t do as many collections at one time, because every collection creates a new network collection, causing network and CPU overhead.”

EMC’s Siegal reports that because EMC supports large environments it has improved its Symmetrix agent ratios from 5:1 to 20:1-meaning that one agent can monitor, report, and configure as many as 20 Symmetrix storage systems.

As the SMI-S management standard progresses and more storage products speak a common language, agents will be less necessary.

IBM’s Jamie Gruener, marketing manager for Tivoli Storage Solutions, says, “SMI-S has improved our ability to manage the storage infrastructure. It got us to the point where it’s agreed that we need to have a standard. But how do you implement this so there’s a common implementation of SMI-S so that vendors can over time focus more on value-added capabilities as opposed to having to do device testing every time they release a new product? [To address this] IBM and the Aperi group are accelerating SMI-S and creating a common, open-source implementation that can be used by multiple vendors.”

Why wait?

Dan Norton, a product marketing manager in Sun’s storage division, which has SRM products that include Business Analytics (formerly Storability’s Global Storage Manager) and Operations Manager (OEM’d from HP) comments on the SRM market: “Users have come to the point where they understand that they need something. They want the one perfect tool that does everything for them. They want a solution that does all the traditional SRM functions plus policy-based data movement and archiving, compliance, and multi-vendor provisioning. The SRM field as a whole is not there.”

Analysts advise storage professionals to find a solution that won’t cause more trouble than it’s worth. Users should ask how long it takes to realize ROI, how much scripting is needed to customize the software, and how much control the administrator will still have.

Although the number of vendors offering SRM has decreased in the past six years (acquisitions/consolidation), the SRM and SAN management landscape is still crowded (see list, p. 34). Making an intelligent decision on how to manage storage resources will necessitate identifying your company’s particular pain point and then finding the vendor that can address that pain point best.


Q: What is (or will be) your primary reason for purchasing SRM software?

1. Storage capacity provisioning

2. Array capacity/device management

3. File system capacity management

4. Application (e-mail/database) capacity management

5. SAN management/change management

6. Backup reporting

7. Quota management

Source: Gartner


Representative SRM and SAN management vendors/products

Abrevity File Data Classifier

CentrePath Storage Resource Manager

CommVault QiNetix StorageManager
QNet ServiceManager

CA BrightStor SRM

DataCore SANmaestro Monitor

EMC ControlCenter Suite
Insignia VisualSRM
Smarts

Finisar NetWisdom

Hewlett-Packard Storage Essentials

Hitachi Data Systems HiCommand Storage Services Manager

IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center

McData SAN Navigator

MonoSphere Storage Horizon

NTP Software QFS
Modeling & Analysis

Northern Parklife Northern Storage Suite

Onaro SANscreen

Opsware (Creekpath) Opsware Application Storage
Automation System (Due 2007)

Softek Storage Manager

Sun Business Analytics
Operations Manager

Symantec CommandCentral Storage
CommandCentral Service

Tek-Tools Profiler

TeraCloud Storage Analytics


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