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Issue of December 2002 
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Storage Management
Addressing Storage Management Challenges

Spurred mainly by explosive data growth, enterprises have wisened up and moved to network-centric storage models to keep its data safe. But the real task is to manage the storage in spite of its challenges. by Soutiman Das Gupta

A study conducted by a research firm says that in the next three years, the world will generate 57 TB of data. Incredibly, this is more than all data generated on earth over the last 40,000 years. It seems we're not looking at a data 'flood' here—we're looking at a data 'explosion.'

The reasons for this data explosion are many: the growth of the Internet, workplace automation, use of enterprise applications, and the need to archive historical data. In many enterprises IT spend on storage almost matches that of servers. Gartner predicts that by 2003, IT spend on storage will be three times the server spend, and will constitute 17 percent of the IT budget. Currently, storage makes up 4 percent of the IT budget.

Storage needs to be managed
Enterprises can claim that it has adequate server space to keep its valuable data neatly tucked away. But does that really mean much? How will an enterprise optimally harness the data to make sure it's available all the time, and get maximum benefit out of it?

It's absolutely essential to follow appropriate storage management practices in order to tame the growing bulk of enterprise data. After all, intelligent data is what your organization thrives on. Over the last few years storage management has evolved from a server-centric model to a network-centric model. And this shift has naturally given rise to new difficulties, concepts, and challenges.

Storage management challenges
These are some of the challenges faced by enterprises who want to handle its storage resources

  • The biggest challenge is to manage the explosion of data growth. An enterprise needs to not only have adequate hardware, but a correct management strategy to handle volumes.
  • Storage interoperability issues keep cropping up because not all vendors' products interoperate even though they claim to do so. The products are sometimes proprietary in nature. Enterprises may have legacy systems and multiple OSs which are difficult to integrate. And new storage standards like iSCSI, Infiniband, and Bluefin are already in various stages of maturity even though earlier standards like Fiber Channel have not been adopted very widely.
  • Managing a distributed architecture is difficult but vital since the same information needs to be accessed by different users who run different applications.
  • Managing storage remotely and with the least amount of human intervention.
  • Most enterprises have restricted IT budgets which naturally impacts storage hardware and software procurement decisions. IT heads are doubly cautious about spending money.
  • Qualified technical personnel for storage systems are not easy to come by. This adds a cash component to the overheads.
  • There may be unpredictable demands due to events like unpredictable growth, holiday rush, and catastrophic events.
Storage management costs
  • It costs three to five times the amount per GB to manage storage than to purchase storage
  • Manpower requirement for storage management:
    Distributed storage: 300 GB/Manager
    Central but unconsolidated: 400 GB/Manager to 600 GB/Manager
    Multiplatform and consolidated: 1500 GB/Manager to 2000 GB/Manager
    Source: Gartner

Source: Gartner

Overcoming challenges
Creating and deploying a well-structured storage management infrastructure is the best way to overcome the challenges. The storage software management modules should be able to capture information efficiently and allow monitoring of best practices and usage patterns. It should be able to load balance, simplify administration, automate the entire storage architecture, and ensure consistency.

Storage Management
Agendra Kumar, Country Manager, Veritas says, "A storage management solution is not just a tactical tool but a strategic component for any IT environment."

Arun Rao, National Manager, Storage Business, Computer Associates (CA) says, "Storage management tools comprise hardware and software components and utilities which when put together make up the total storage architecture. It can perform backup and recovery, aggregate diverse data, and provide database support. And they should ideally be interoperable across all platforms, applications, databases, and hardware topologies.

Building blocks
A true managed storage environment is possible with a mix of hardware and software wired in the correct topology using an appropriate protocol.

Storage hardware is available from a number of vendors like Network Appliance, HP, IBM, Hitachi Data Systems, EMC, Adaptec, and StorageTek. Most vendors offer robust hardware configurations and scalability options that may suit your enterprise.

Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Network (SAN) are the most popular topologies of network storage. And protocols like IP, Fiber Channel are the most popular storage interface standards.

The intelligence of any system, as we all are aware, is in the software. All hardware vendors provide their own management software which has a console-based management module. And vendors like CA, Veritas, IBM, and HP offer enterprise-wide storage management software.

Most storage management software can be broadly categorized into two categories. The first category of software deals with data protection, and takes care of backup and restore, and media management.

The second category deals with storage resource management. It looks at storage performance optimization, allocation of assignments, control measures, capacity analysis, and storage service level metering and charge back.

Bithin Talukdar, Market Development & Alliances, Software Global Business Unit, HP, mentions the following key attributes of ideal storage management software:

  • Enables mobility, allowing easy migration of data, by demand or policy, between logical and physical locations.
  • Allows transparent expansion.
  • Behaves elastically, allowing expansion and contraction without application interruption.
  • Performs persistently, and is always-on and always-available until it is removed from management control.
  • Operates securely, where data is protected from unauthorized access.
  • Is economical. The total cost of management decreases as storage size increases.
  • Is responsive so that performance service level parameters are met.
  • Provides instant visibility so that authorized users have access to data, regardless of the infrastructure, which may be Direct Attached Storage (DAS), NAS, and SAN.
  • Delivers automation, thus reducing the chances of failure due to workmanship or other administrative issues typical of managing large amounts of data.

The goal and the key
Analysts at Meta Group say that enterprise storage management is likely to surface as the most significant contributor to an IT Organization's (ITO's) operational savings. The goal of storage management is to streamline and automate as many daily tasks that consume staff resources as possible. And the key is to examine how and which operational tasks can be automated and leveraged across server operating systems and multi-vendor storage hardware. This will help to increase storage capacity. And will either keep the number of storage infrastructure and storage operations staff constant, or will hopefully decrease the number of staff over time.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at

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