SRM: More than just reporting

By Heidi Biggar

Despite a 31% increase in market revenue in 2004, from $468 million to $612 million, storage resource management (SRM) remains the second-smallest-albeit the fastest-growing-segment of the overall storage management software market, according to the Gartner IT consulting firm.

However, analysts say that one of the most important tools that administrators-especially those with complex storage infrastructures-can implement going forward is SRM.

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At its most basic level, SRM allows users to inventory their storage environments. Based on this inventory, users can then define policies for data classification and automate various processes.

As it evolves and becomes more “active” in nature, SRM is expected to play an increasingly integral role in the information life-cycle management (ILM) process, as well as be a key enabler of a variety of other enhanced storage functions, including backup, archiving, and compliance.

Ultimately, SRM will have the ability to continuously capture information about data usage patterns, access, etc., which can then be used to trigger a variety of policy-based actions, such as automatically moving data among tiers of storage based on its value to the organization or ensuring that new data volumes are backed up as they are created.

For example, SRM tools will be able to automatically communicate changes in the backup environment (e.g., new volumes) to the backup application, which in turn will trigger appropriate actions to ensure that data is part of the backup process. Veritas’ NetBackup is an example of a backup application that today is able to continuously “scan” the storage environment for this purpose. Veritas Backup is currently integrated with Storage Exec.

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Explains Nancy Hurley, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group: “SRM functionality, as it was originally defined, gives users the ability to analyze and report on how storage resources are being used, but it’s clear that these products are not only good for up-front assessment and quota management [to improve capacity utilization], but are also integral to ILM.” In fact, Hurley believes SRM is a “must-have” in any ILM environment and, as such, will be absorbed into data movement and migration products over time.

Carolyn DiCenzo, a research vice president at Gartner, also sees SRM as being “critical to the success of other storage management functions.” In particular, DiCenzo believes SRM will be a key enabler of automated provisioning, data archiving, and HSM and will improve backup efficiency.

While users can expect vendors to integrate backup and SRM products, for example, ESG’s Hurley says it is unlikely that SRM will be “built into” backup applications. In contrast, she expects SRM and data movement/migration applications to become fully integrated in the future. As an indicator of this trend, Arkivio has integrated an SRM capability into its Auto-Stor data migration software, she says.

Also integral to the ILM process is having some type of automated process or workflow manager. This type of software automates the workflow of storage management tasks, such as provisioning, using a series of templates. Vendors such as Computer Associates (BrightStor Process Automation Manager) and Veritas (CommandCentral Service), for example, have this type of capability. CA BrightStor Process Automation Manager is integrated with BrightStor SAN Manager.

But despite its many promises, SRM today is still largely an “inactive,” or “passive,” reporting tool, although a number of vendors, as noted above, have begun to integrate SRM with a variety of other applications, including SAN management, backup, and workflow management.

“Vendors are behind the curve,” says Gartner’s DiCenzo. “SRM is still pretty much a reporting tool.” Analysts attribute some of the delay to the slow adoption of the SMI-S management standard in the market and among vendor products.

According to Jim Geis, director of storage solutions at Forsythe Technology, an IT services and solutions provider, SRM has three key elements: discovery (i.e., knowing what is in your storage environment), operations (i.e., being able to provision and de-commission storage as needed), and reporting (i.e., trending/analyzing for future growth).

While SRM tools have their own strengths and weaknesses, overall Geis says that, of the three elements, the operations piece is generally the most mature while the reporting component is typically “hit or miss” and lacks granularity. Geis also says that users’ experience with SRM to date has been relatively poor. “There is a lot of unhappiness with SRM tools because they are cumbersome and they often don’t work well,” he says.

Nonetheless, surveys show that users are continuing to adopt SRM technology. In fact, according to a recent end-user survey conducted by TheInfoPro research firm, SRM is no longer a “hot” technology because it has already been widely adopted. Of the 151 users polled for the survey, 54% were already using SRM and another 18% said they planned to implement it this year. Only 17% of respondents have no plans to use the technology (see figure on p. 10). About one-fourth (24%) of the survey respondents plan to spend more on SRM/SNM (storage network management) this year than last year (see figure on p. 10).

Representative SRM vendors, according to Gartner, include AppIQ, Computer Associates, CommVault, CreekPath, EMC, HP, IBM, Northern, NTP Software, Softek, StorageTek/Storability, Tek-Tools, TeraCloud, and Veritas. EMC has the lion’s share of the SRM market with a 61% market share last year, claims Gartner.

This article was originally published on June 01, 2005