Corral Storage Management with ESRM
Enterprise storage resource management suites can help cut costs and reduce headaches.
By Zachary Shess
Storage administrators have no qualms confessing their difficulty in trying to proactively manage distributed storage resources. But have no fear, the task may soon get easier. An emerging solution, enterprise storage resource management (ESRM) software, may solve some of their problems.
The definition of ESRM depends on who you ask. For companies like Computer Associates (CA), Legato Systems, and Veritas Software (which was set to acquire Seagate Software at press time), who made their marks in network backup and management, ESRM is a logical continuation of corporate backup and recovery plans. "ESRM falls into three areas," says Ed Cooper, director of strategic communications at Legato. "It`s the total protection of all data, regardless of who created it and where it resides, continuous access to that data, and transparent backup and recovery."
Carolyn DiCenzo, director and principal analyst at Dataquest, a market research firm in San Jose, defines ESRM differently. "Backup and recovery are storage management disciplines, but they`re not part of storage resource management," says DiCenzo. "ESRM keeps track of assets, helps with capacity and configuration management, media management, and event management, and alerts so that you can automate processes. Backing it up is a different function."
Leveraging its strengths in mainframe SRM, IBM introduced its StorWatch ESRM suite this summer. The planned components of the StorWatch architecture provide a comprehensive list of functions that can be used to define an ESRM solution, including data/device/media migration, and the management of assets, capacity, configuration, events and alerts, performance, and policies (see figure).
According to some analysts, mainframe software vendors have a head start over other ESRM vendors. Regardless, most observers agree it will take distributed ESRM a few years to mature. Dataquest estimates that mainframe and distributed SRM will account for $293 million in revenues this year, with nearly all of that coming from the mainframe side. By 2002, distributed ESRM is expected to take off and combine with mainframe SRM to account for more than $1.2 billion in revenues.
ESRM growth has been impeded by several technology hurdles, and even successful mainframe SRM vendors such as Boole & Babbage, EMC, IBM, and Sterling Software have only recently been able to deliver solutions for distributed environments. "The big difference is that the distributed environment is much messier, fragmented, and complex, and it`s much more difficult to deploy automation in an unstructured environment," says Mark Nicolett, research director at the Gartner Group, an IT consulting firm in Stamford, CT.
In an effort to corral costs and increase efficiency, IS teams are re-centralizing their storage resources. This effort has shed light on the need for proactive ESRM tools that complement the more reactive backup-and-recovery solutions. "The trend toward centralization is driving vendor focus on ESRM because customers are asking for the tools," says Jeff Barckley, product marketing manager at IBM.
Some industry observers maintain that widespread ESRM implementation has been hamstrung in part by the high turnover of young IS professionals. They move around with such regularity that long-term storage management planning has simply not been addressed. "The mainframe folks stayed in the same place and same job for a long time," says DiCenzo. "With less experienced people, an IT staff needs to have the tools that drive storage resource policies and enforce the way things are done."
For all these reasons, vendors have been given a monumental edict: Provide automated ESRM across multiple platforms to environments exploding in capacity and complexity, and simplify it for less experienced managers. Because of the vast scope of ESRM, vendors are tackling the problem by phasing in individual components. Most users are deploying single-task point products as vendors phase in their umbrella architectures in piecemeal fashion.
"Vendors have to define an umbrella architecture and plug in certain pieces they can deliver now to help users understand where they need to be in the future," says DiCenzo. Companies use the point products for isolated tasks such as backup and security, stringing together software from different vendors.
More comprehensive suites are beginning to emerge, however. Several vendors have laid out product road maps and architectures for ESRM across heterogeneous environments. According to analysts, a representative list of ESRM vendors includes Boole & Babbage, Computer Associates, HighGround Systems, IBM, Legato, Seagate Software, Sterling Software, and Veritas (see Vendor Box for product/architecture names and vendor URLs).
Locate, Then Automate
Some common issues prevail among users who are considering or implementing ESRM. Generally, they`ve addressed network backup and recovery and are looking for a comprehensive way to anticipate storage resource problems.
International Telecom Data Systems (ITDS), in Stamford, CT, provides billing information services to wireless communications companies. As director of technical services, Mike Yevich manages the ITDS storage environment that holds client phone records and files for some 250 employees. The environment includes eight HP9000 servers with a variety of storage subsystems on NT and NetWare networks. The company backs up its data to SpectraLogic libraries with Sony AIT tape drives.
Once CA`s ARCserve backup suite was deployed across the enterprise, Yevich realized the growing amount of data was making it increasingly difficult to keep on top of his storage resources. "We basically had people running around manually checking things. If we had a failure, 9 out of 10 times we had no warning," Yevich recalls. "We would be completely reactionary to everything because we had no reporting tools to look at the performance statistics of specific machines, or storage management techniques." ESRM enables ITDS to bring all of its resources under a common umbrella. Yevich says this integration provides easier management from servers down to backup tape devices.
Andrew Hargreave, director of technical infrastructure at Geneer, a software development company in Des Plaines, IL, also labored through point-product SRM software packages that were cobbled together. Hargreave manages some 900GB of data distributed across 33 Windows NT servers. "Previously, we had mostly a collection of manual tools, and we had to combine at least two or three of them to try to get a picture of where disk space was being taking up," says Hargreave. "I was spending 30% to 40% of my day trying to figure out what was where and who copied their local hard drive up to the network."
Once Geneer installed HighGround Systems` Storage Resource Manager software, the IS staff regained some control over its storage resources. "It gives us a matrix on how quickly we`re growing in each space, plus the ability to budget both financially and time-wise so we know when we`re going to need staff to work on specific machines," says Nancy Young, Geneer`s director of operations. "We can inform our business units when the servers could max out so that they can budget their client deadlines around any repairs."
As data center director at Thomson Financial Services, in Boston, Jeff Grimm has spent most of 1998 choosing an ESRM solution. He has been using Veritas` netBackup and now needs event management capabilities to address job scheduling requirements.
"We have several nightly database loads that are very complicated," Grimm explains. "For instance, when files come in from the mainframe, they first need to be manipulated, then loaded into multiple databases along with all the corresponding tables. This happens every night so managers can have updated information in the morning. We have hundreds of these running every night."
As ESRM slowly moves through its early adoption period, neither Yevich, Hargreaves, or Young believe they are taking chances with these relatively new products. Instead, they believe they will save time, money and, perhaps, a little sanity.
"Our situation is critical because software is our business, and if the server is down, our developers can`t build and we miss deadlines. So, the financial impact is huge," says Geneer`s Young. She estimates that installing HighGround`s software saved Geneer the cost of hiring another full-time IS employee. The reduction in server down time is another important business benefit.
With ESRM implementation on the rise, and business benefits now being realized, many users are turning to VARs and systems integrators. "There is a definite need for integrators who understand how to relate business requirements to the technology because that`s often what is missing in a company," says Paul Mason, vice president of infrastructure software research at International Data Corp. a market research firm in Framingham, MA.
"VARs will play a valuable role for midsize and smaller companies because larger companies typically have huge investments in the software management staff, as well as professional services. Smaller companies don`t have as many resources, are cost-restrained, and want a turnkey solution," says Beverly Casstevens, a product marketing manager with Boole & Babbage. "Initially, ESRM will primarily be implemented directly unless you have a really good storage VAR," says Dataquest`s DiCenzo.
Gartner Group`s Nicolett says VARs and systems integrators will play an important role in installing ESRM solutions because the roll-out frequently requires extensive planning and analysis, which can take several months.
Despite the market progression this year, early adopters recommend patience and planning in waiting for ESRM product road maps to come to fruition. For example, implementing CA`s UniCenter TNG at ITDS has taken Yevich almost a year. His battle was not product shortcomings, but a shortage of personnel. He says if he could have maintained a dedicated staff on the project without pulling them over periodically to put out other fires, installing UniCenter TNG would have been much easier. Yevich`s advice is simple: "Plan ahead and make sure you have the dedicated resources, and don`t have people move off the project in the middle."
Even as vendor optimism grows and users reap tangible business benefits, few can dispute that the distributed ESRM software market is still in its infancy. However, as storage area networks emerge, industry observers anticipate ESRM will achieve greater adoption as vendors blend solutions with existing network management products.
Storage resource management can be viewed as a collection of functions that are a subset of more general storage management disciplines.
Out of the total market for systems management software, storage management products garnered the most revenues last year ($2.18 billion).
HighGround`s Storage Resource Manager allows you to set thresholds for users, partitions and disks, and to receive alerts when a threshold condition has been exceeded.