Defining Enterprise Storage Resource Management

Defining Enterprise Storage Resource Management

Building a solid ESRM strategy involves integrating a number of disparate disciplines.

By Jeff Barckley

The growing importance of managing an organization`s storage resources resembles the challenge faced by classical musicians learning a new symphony. No matter what their talent, or the quality of their instruments, they need a conductor who can meld them into an orchestra and interpret the composer`s work so it`s worthy of a concert hall performance.

In many of today`s IT organizations, challenges such as lack of interoperability among applications, seemingly countless user interfaces, and the absence of comprehensive procedures can transform what otherwise might resemble the power and beauty of Beethoven`s 5th into the cacophony of a traffic jam. With the explosive growth of data-intensive activities such as data warehousing and distributed network environments, storage resource management (SRM) challenges have become increasingly urgent.

Recent research indicates that more than half of all business sites with more than 1,000 employees either add, change, or redeploy storage subsystems, workstations, and servers at least several times a year. This type of environment clearly makes it more difficult to track and manage storage resources in an efficient, centralized manner.

As many IT managers are painfully finding out, simply throwing more storage capacity at these problems does not solve them--either operationally or financially. While the cost of purchasing a megabyte of disk storage is significantly decreasing each year, the cost of managing that megabyte is often many times greater. So companies that simply buy more storage are not containing their costs; they are actually magnifying them by committing themselves to spend more dollars annually to manage each megabyte.

Whether your company is a Fortune 500 multinational or a fast-growing startup, you`ll inevitably face a number of important SRM issues. This article is intended to help IT managers and software integrators understand enterprise storage resource management (ESRM) issues so they can identify areas for improvement over the short- and long-term. Some issues may have more relevance for large data processing shops responsible for multiple networks across multiple time zones, while others may resonate with smaller organizations with more limited resources.

The Ideal Solution

In thinking about the many hardware and software issues that encompass ESRM, consider first what a perfect system might look like. Perhaps the most important characteristic is that it would indeed be a system--a fully integrated network in which all storage devices and functions are linked. No storage solutions would exist as isolated, independent islands.

Ideally, the system would have a single point of control for all platforms across the enterprise and a single view of all storage resources. The system could be managed from anywhere, freeing administrators from having to work from a particular location.

The system would have a consistent user interface, eliminating the investment of time and resources necessary to provide staff with skills specific to particular products and platforms. The interface would be similar for both hardware and software management. It would be possible to use that interface to remotely reconfigure storage devices so that data that might have been stored on disks on one platform in one location, for example, could be stored on multiple disks on different platforms in different locations.

Lastly, since the system would function with a high degree of interoperability among various platforms and applications, it would be possible to automate many of the procedures associated with routine tasks and procedures, such as archiving, backup/restore, and security processes. In many shops, these and other procedures are performed manually.

Storage Management Disciplines

The many puzzle pieces to an enterprise-wide solution--each playing an important role in an overall storage management strategy--could include:

- Backup/restore

- Archive/retrieve

- Space usage management

- Disaster recovery

- Storage resource management

- Authorization/security

- Accounting and chargeout

Enterprise storage resource management, or ESRM, has attracted much attention over the past year. It can be viewed as an umbrella discipline with eight additional disciplines:

- Asset management--the task of knowing precisely what storage assets exist within an IT organization. This information can change daily. Asset management includes both hardware (such as physical disks) and software (such as remote backup service applications). A storage administrator should be able to find asset information quickly and easily and be able to maintain it in an asset management database.

- Capacity management--knowing how much capacity is being used at any time. More importantly, the ability to track capacity usage to forecast future needs and to plan strategies accordingly.

- Configuration management--for example, the ability, on the hardware side, to monitor and configure a disk subsystem among multiple servers on different platforms and to see how the system is cabled. Configuration management also includes the ability to detect and, where possible, fix hardware and software errors and other problems such as excessive I/O loads. Wherever possible, these issues should also be able to be handled remotely.

- Data/device/media migration--Data migration, particularly outboard data movement in data warehousing and similar applications, is the focus of much attention. When large amounts of stored data need to be moved quickly from one system to another, the ability to physically move the media reduces the processing resources that would otherwise have been required to channel it within the system. Existing ESRM applications currently require administrators to manually input what`s been moved where, and IT organizations should have established procedures for handling outboard data movements. Methods for automated outboard data movement are being developed.

Data propagation, or internal movement of stored data, is useful in frequently performed one-to-many situations, such as downloading pricing information from a relational database to a field sales force. Media migration refers to situations in which changes in one media technology, such as optical drives, make it a more attractive storage media. Data must be moved from the previous media to the new one.

- Event management and alerts--enables the storage management system to quickly notify an administrator in a central location of the location and exact nature of an error in a network (e.g., excessive I/O loads and hard-drive failures). Ideally, this capability should provide real-time notification of an error and maintain an historical record to determine ongoing hardware or software problem areas.

- Removable media management--the ability to monitor on- or off-site tape, optical, or other media. Procedures for recycling optical or tape media holding expired data, or transferring data from aging tapes, are examples of removable media management.

- Performance management--an ongoing view of application, server, and subsystem performance, which enables system administrators to spot problems that may not be apparent through other more granular disciplines, such as event management. For example, four application servers that each have an I/O load of 250 I/Os per second may individually be operating within their limits, yet overburdening a storage subsystem that isn`t configured to handle the combined load of 1,000 I/Os per second. Performance management provides an overall system and subsystem view of storage resource management.

- Policy management--specifying rules or policies that the storage management programs use to manage hardware, files, users, schedules, and media. Policy- driven management ensures consistency and frees up administrators to do other tasks. A robust policy management system handles a wide variety of storage resources to meet varying business needs and provides an easy way to manage the policies themselves.

Together, the above disciplines describe a framework IT managers can use to evaluate what is most feasible to accomplish over the short- and long-term and what is simply not relevant.

As the number of devices and volume of data in networked environments continues to grow exponentially, the need for effective ESRM will continue to take on urgency. IT managers need to strategically assess how and where to deploy their human and financial resources to deal with a range of storage resource issues that may often be interrelated.

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Storage resource management is a subset of storage management, which can include as many as eight disciplines.

Jeff Barckley is product manager of IBM StorWatch solutions, IBM storage systems division, San Jose, California.

This article was originally published on October 01, 1998