Requirements for Enterprise Storage Management
Developing an enterprise storage management strategy entails more than cobbling a collection of "point products."
T. M. Ravi
The landscape of business computing has changed considerably over the past two decades. These changes, driven by advances in information systems and networking technology and by rapidly expanding business information requirements, have led to increasingly sophisticated enterprise computing environments. Unlike highly manageable mainframe infrastructures, the new enterprise environments are characterized by client/server applications that run over multiple multi-protocol networks, intranets, and the Internet. These networks, in turn, connect a growing number of distributed, heterogeneous servers to a seemingly unlimited number of end-user workstations.
As the business computing environment has become more distributed, so too has mission-critical data. According to analysts, fully half of the terabyte (or more) of data generated annually by a large enterprise now resides on disk drives and tape backup systems of distributed servers and desktops--in stark contrast to the centralized data storage and management model that prevails in mainframe-centric environments.
The distribution of mission-critical data across a decentralized enterprise poses several challenges for IS managers. How these challenges are met largely determines the overall business value of distributed computing and the extent to which corporations are vulnerable to interruptions in computing services and to the loss of critical corporate data.
Decentralized computing environments pose numerous storage-management challenges for the enterprise. Distributed platforms are a heterogeneous mixture of server hardware, networking protocols, and operating systems.
Choosing an ESM strategy
To be cost-effective, storage management strategies must be largely automated. Many products promise "enterprise-class solutions" to storage management challenges. However, most are actually "point products," which offer a particular storage-management function, solutions for only one type of operating system, or a limited set of storage devices.
For IS professionals looking for a comprehensive solution for a distributed, heterogeneous enterprise, consider integrated solutions that meet the following criteria:
- Storage management is more than backup: To safeguard against loss, data needs to be backed up periodically. However, storage management does not stop with backup. Data migration based on usage is important, so is disaster recovery. Functionality such as image restore, fail-over replication, and multi-format data handling capabilities are paramount. An enterprise-class storage management solution should work with a broad range of operating systems, networks, host hardware, media, and storage devices. The software should also support specialized backup requirements of real-time applications, open files, and live databases.
- Integration is integral: Enterprise storage management is essentially an effort to deliver mainframe-class storage management capabilities to distributed computing environments. As such, enterprise storage management is part of a larger effort in many companies to improve the reliability, security, and manageability of enterprise computing through the implementation of end-to-end enterprise management suites. Storage management software should be compatible with existing management suites. IS managers should not settle for an aggregation of point solutions; instead, they should look for a comprehensive suite that operates independently or one that can be integrated with other management solutions such as security, output, server/network management, or asset management solutions.
- Take an asset protection perspective: When evaluating storage management products, do not become mired in device support lists and deployment topologies. Maintain a business asset protection perspective. In addition to desktop and server platforms, other corporate assets include applications, databases, intranets, and the Internet. Applications are often mission-critical and must be protected. If the applications operate on a 24x7 basis, the storage management solution must be able to perform on-line (or "hot") backups while applications are running.
- Choose an end-to-end solution with centralized management: The objective of ESM is to manage all distributed storage resources from a single point. Look for products that have a single management console that can be used to administer storage management functions, including media management, archiving, and data migration, anywhere in the network. In the near future, products should also incorporate Web technology and even wireless consoles that will enable storage administrators to manage everything from anywhere in the enterprise.
- Leverage existing investments: The enterprise-computing environment is complex, representing substantial investment of time, personnel, and infrastructure. The enterprise storage management solution should support legacy systems and networks as well as newer distributed servers, networks, and intranets. Another way to leverage investment may be to make legacy storage devices available for network storage use.
- Automate: Storage management software should enable administrators to focus on exceptions rather than routine procedures. To do this, it must offer a way of automating tasks such as backup, data migration, and media management. This might include a policy specification capability, which allows schedules and thresholds to be established in conjunction with intelligent agent technology. The agents reference the policies, monitor thresholds, and automate actions.
- Capitalize on the intelligence of the infrastructure: ESM software should take advantage of the "intelligent" capabilities of the systems and networks with which it operates. For example, when backing up a remote Microsoft NT server, some storage management products pull all data onto the server rather than using the capabilities of the operating and client-based "push agents" to identify and stage specific files that are to be backed up. The latter approach makes better use of system resources by making full uses of the operating system`s capabilities.
- Tight integration with enterprise management suites: In this context, integration refers to more than the ability to launch storage-management point products from the graphical desktop of the enterprise management console. Integration must occur at a deeper level. For example, backups of financial data must share the security provisions imposed on the data in the production system. The storage management software, therefore, must be tightly integrated with the security management component of an enterprise management suite. Event notifications relating to storage management functions should be consolidated with notifications of other events from systems, networks, databases, and applications and reported to a single console.
Storage management functions must also be integrated with application management capabilities within an enterprise storage management strategy. With application suites such as SAP R/3, there are significant challenges associated with deploying the application across multiple servers, managing performance, and updating files. Integration of storage management with application management functionality in this situation provides much greater operational efficiency over application environments.
The above criteria are the basis for making decisions when evaluating storage management options. If they are well considered, the resulting strategy will meet the challenges of backup, archiving, data migration, disaster recovery, and media management through a comprehensive solution set.
T.M. Ravi is vice president of enterprise management marketing at Computer Associates International, Inc., in Islandia, NY.