NT Requires Enterprise Storage Management
Particularly with the introduction of Windows NT 5.0 later this year, IT managers should prepare for implementing enterprise storage management.
By Lisa Haut-Mikkelsen and Richard Lee
Windows NT is undergoing rapid transformation and maturation, most of which centers on the requirements of enterprise computing, a term much bandied about by vendors. However, few vendors actually have much know-how and a proven track record in this mission-critical segment of the computing food chain. Some define it in terms of the "numbers of seats"; others with respect to the types of applications being supported. At a base level, enterprise computing is an environment in which availability is key and security is essential.
To meet the challenges of enterprise computing, IT managers need a comprehensive storage management strategy. Regardless of the platform, storage management provides critical elements and services.
Windows NT does not have much of a track record in enterprise storage management (ESM), so most users do not have the luxury of drawing on past experiences to determine the best storage management strategy. To develop and deploy any new ESM strategy successfully, IT managers need to identify current and future storage management requirements and policies.
Storage management is defined as a comprehensive set of applications, tools, utilities, policies, and procedures that manage and protect an enterprise computing environment`s data, regardless of size, location, and other variables.
In meeting ESM challenges on both a developmental and deployment level, IT managers must follow a logical path to avoid choosing a solution that may become untenable. Point solutions may appear to meet today`s requirements, but they often lack the scalability required by rapidly expanding user demands and storage capacities. Enterprise computing has a number of basic functional requirements with respect to storage management, including:
- Reliable storage and retrieval of data anywhere, anytime.
Performance and scalability
- Use of the most appropriate media for the class of service required (e.g., hierarchical storage management).
- Multiple platform support with tight operating system integration (to ease management and lower the total cost of ownership).
- Administrator-defined policies and procedures.
- "On-the-fly" processing for mission-critical applications (e.g., high reliability, serviceability, and recovery from faults).
- Use of a business continuance architecture (e.g., disaster recovery).
- Elimination of single points of failure via distributed storage management processing (i.e., fault tolerance).
Storage capacity requirements are growing at a rate of up to 60% per year, which means that managed storage environments (i.e., the amount of data that needs to be managed and the total number of users that need to be supported) are doubling every year or so. This growth makes the up-front strategy development process that much more critical because it ultimately determines the long-term direction of ESM deployment.
The factors you should consider when determining your strategy include:
- Scalability. Perhaps more than any other consideration, scalability is critical to the long-term viability of an ESM strategy. If a solution is truly scalable, the numbers of users, applications, networks, servers, and data capacities that it can support should not be a limiting factor.
- Network heterogeneity. In order to support networking schemes and topologies that are constantly changing, it is critical that your ESM strategy remains compatible with the installed base.
- Leverage current and future assets. Everyone in enterprise IT faces the challenge of "doing more with less." This corporate mantra has driven many organizations to re-deploy existing assets and to purchase more powerful ones to reduce the total cost of ownership.
- Openness. One key factor contributing to the success of Windows NT is its "openness" to APIs and hardware standards. Such openness is also necessary for storage management strategies. Best-of-breed applications, utilities, and tools must be supported, regardless of vendor.
- Mission-critical application interfacing. An increasing number of the mission-critical applications that drive enterprise computing environments have unique storage management requirements. These applications include on-line transaction processing, enterprise resource planning, online analytical processing, data mining and decision support, Internet/intranet/extranet, and messaging and mail.
- Support and serviceability. As an ESM system evolves, it changes in both scope and size. Solutions must be able to support these changes without requiring significant additional investments. Also, the storage management architecture must support a 24x7 environment, which keeps the ESM solution up and running under a variety of faults and routine maintenance situations. Use of a business continuance architecture is often mandated.
Making a Decision
Only a limited number of ESM solutions are available for Windows NT--most of which were either originally developed for DOS and NetWare or migrated from Unix or MVS environments. To determine which ESM system to choose, ask the following questions:
- How much experience does the vendor have in ESM systems and what is the basis of this knowledge?
- Has the vendor added any technical innovations to the solution?
- What development and support resources are available?
- Does the vendor`s track record and proposed solution engender a feeling of trust or require a "leap of faith"?
- What is the scope of the vendor`s installed base and how many sites are available as references?
- Is enterprise-class storage management a main component of the vendor`s overall business or is it new and untested?
- Does the vendor`s proposed solution provide a secure foundation to manage the enterprise`s storage requirements?
- Does the proposed solution provide full fault tolerance?
Windows NT 5.0 introduces some radical changes from NT 4.0--many of which affect storage and storage management. Many of the ESM functions that have been provided by stand-alone applications, utilities, and tools from the ISV community have been integrated into NT 5.0. To get ahead of the new release curve, the vendor/customer partnership needs to be even more strategic than before. All parties need to work together to prioritize ESM and to plan for the least-risky path for implementation success.
Lisa Haut-Mikkelsen is the ADSM product manager in IBM`s storage systems division, and Richard Lee is a management and technology consultant in Banner Elk, NC. He writes frequently for Windows NT and Selling NT Solutions magazines and is the author of The NT Storage Primer (Duke Press 1997-98), and Windows NT Cluster Server (MSCS), Design, Deployment and Administration Reference Guide (McGraw-Hill/Osborne 1998). He can be reached at email@example.com.