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Issue of December 2002 
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Storage Management
A 'policy' pill for storage ailments

Simply deploying storage hardware and software may not be the only way to protect your storage infrastructure from ailments. It's a good idea to bind it with a storage management policy which will lay down guidelines and workflow processes to make your storage infrastructure the healthiest link in your network. by Soutiman Das Gupta

IT Heads of most large enterprises in India are now aware of the seriousness of network storage and have taken positive steps to devise ways to control growing data volumes. A survey conducted jointly by Network Magazine (India) and ORG-MARG among 200 CIOs/CTOs/IT Heads of diverse industry verticals shows that 34 percent of the polled companies consider network storage as the focus area in the next year. 81 percent of these companies stated an increase in storage requirement and the average rate of increase in storage requirement is 38 percent.
This is a good sign for the industry since this will lead to better management of data. And better management will invariably lead to better data security, regular backup measures, established disaster recovery practices, and consequently, lesser storage-related ailments.

At this stage of evolving storage management maturity, enterprises need only swallow a small pill (certainly not bitter), which will help do away with most storage-related ailments. The pill is called a 'storage management policy'.

Setting a stage for a policy
Storage on your network is not an object, but a service. Once you see storage as a service rather than an object, it is easier and more obvious to understand that provisioning storage, which is about purchasing disk drives and adding them to the network is just a minor aspect. And it's also the easier part of storage management.

Delivering a guaranteed, uniform level of service over time, and doing it cost-effectively are the harder aspects of storage management. This means we need a standard of performance and the ability to measure our delivery. To offer any committed level of service over time, we also need to ensure that the actions of one user cannot interfere with the entitlement of another. This means we need the ability to control the amount and manner by which storage resources are used.

Storage volume requirements continue to increase dramatically over time. SANs and large capacity drives are available to meet this demand at a wide variety of price points. The challenge is not one of finding hardware large enough to accommodate the need. It is one of having the storage it provides on-line and available at the right moment, without spending wastefully.

There are also many good storage management software available that allow you to automate tasks like manually compiling information, writing scripts, analyzing disks, partitions, and managing users over and over again. Storage hardware and software management tools are used by many enterprises. But companies often overlook the lack of a clearly articulated policy for their implementation and the use of the resources they supervise. If you recognize the value of storage hardware and management software, then you should also realize the value of a storage management policy.

The need for a policy
A storage management policy is a set of guidelines that define the corporate rules and responsibilities for storage services and usage. Your storage architecture is incomplete without a storage management policy which includes support from your user community and senior management.

Users and management need to understand that they share a responsibility to participate with you in keeping things under control and clean for the good of everyone. Their data is more likely to be available the moment they want it if the corporate storage resources are not filled with 'junk'. Simply having the right technology is not enough. You need to go through a structured policy development process to address the institutional dynamics of change, and help your users accept limits where there were none before. While this may sound like a lot of work, doing it this way will make your job a lot easier in the long run.

Forming a policy
The storage management policy can be a document which consists of a couple of pages that clearly articulates the rules, roles, and responsibilities of an enterprise. It can be posted on the Intranet for easy reference and, in more formal institutions; it can become part of the employee handbook.

The policy you create needs to be acceptable to the users and the management, and it needs to be appropriate to the scope and ability of the technology within the company. The process you use to develop your storage management policy and the policy itself should address:

  • Who gets to set the rules?
  • Who can make exceptions to the rules?
  • What should be the default quota size for various user groups?
  • Are there any content prohibitions?
  • Are storage quotas soft or hard? When do you make the transition?
  • What is the process when users reach quotas?
  • Management's and users' roles and responsibilities.
  • Backup and archiving responsibilities and service levels.

Storage administration stack
The Meta Group has designed a Storage Administration Stack which gives us a logical approach to efficient storage management. Meta Group feels that companies which deploy an environment based on the 'storage administration stack' can manage 2x storage per person versus those that do not.

The three layers of the storage administration stack are the conceptual (policy), the physical (infrastructure), and the operational (operations).

The conceptual (policy) layer: Policies offer the highest-level view of storage management, dictate the required infrastructure to meet policy mandates, and should be governed by a storage policy director. These policies are interdependent and should be viewed holistically. They include:

Service portfolios and service-level agreements: Storage policy directors should determine what service packages they will offer to business units as well as the associated cost/service tradeoffs based on the needs of the business units.

Data protection strategies: Not all data is created equal, and the data protection mechanisms should be aligned with the service portfolio.

Vendor selection strategies: ITOs should determine, as a matter of policy, whether to pursue a 'best of breed' multi-vendor strategy, or a 'one throat to choke' single-vendor strategy. This may vary from one category to another, but should be done with an eye toward strategic objectives.

The physical (infrastructure) layer: After the overall storage policies have been determined, a storage infrastructure architect should be responsible for designing and implementing the components needed to achieve the service goals.

This will include:
Physical topology design: In most organizations, it will be necessary to use and integrate SAN, NAS, and DAS either for optimum performance or security requirements, as well as data protection.

Performance modeling and monitoring: The storage infrastructure architect should be responsible for not only designing sufficient resources, but also ensuring that service levels are met. This includes storage components and storage networks (FC and fabrics).

Security: Security is an under addressed area in storage management, but should be made the responsibility of the storage infrastructure architect.

The operational (operations) layer: Operational procedures will not vary greatly from current practices, but should be managed by a storage administrator.

Resource allocation: The actual assignment of storage (Logical Unit Numbers (LUN), data zones, and volumes) should be done according to architectural/ application requirements.

Backup/Recovery operations: Backup/Recovery should be included with storage management, not systems management. This will include scheduling, media management, and problem resolution.

Setting user quota
Role Low limited High Limit
General User 50 MB 500 MB
Power user 500 MB 1,000 MB
Administrative staff 500 MB 1,000 MB
Contractor 250 MB 500 MB
Marketing or Graphics 1,000 MB 5,000 MB
Developer 1,000 MB 2,000 MB
Executive 2,000 MB (no limit)
Network Administrator 2,000 MB (no limit)

Policy inhibitions
Gaurav Dua , Senior Research Analyst, Information Technology Practice at Frost & Sullivan says, "most enterprises have not put in place a proper storage management policy primarily because it's often regarded as a sensitive issue. Companies may feel that, by implementing such a policy the organization is putting a restriction on the amount of storage one person or group can use and also limiting the types of files that users can store on the storage service. In simple words, you are asking the users to place limits on something they currently perceive as infinite or free. Before implementing such a policy the users need to be educated about the rationale behind putting in place such a policy and also told how each user is likely to benefit from such an initiative.

Organizations need to realize that storage management policy has little to do with the technology and has more to do with changing the mindset of the actual users. People need to be clear why the company is implementing storage management. They need to know what their role in the process may be. Enterprises should go through a structured policy development process in order to address the institutional dynamics of change and at the same time helping users to abide by the new limits set by the new policy.

Key points to consider before policy-making
  • Recognize that you need a clear storage management policy, not just storage hardware and management software
  • Understand that you need buy-in from all parts of the organization to be successful in implementing the policy
  • Use proven techniques to set up your policy
Tips for implementing a storage management policy

Try these approaches to get the best response to the storage management policy.

  • Use a team approach
  • Keep all users involved
  • Keep the management involved
  • Use a pilot group of users
  • Allow a substantial transition period
A sample storage management policy

1) Storage Quotas

  • User quotas
    Refer to box: Setting users quotas
  • Shared directory quotas
    As appropriate for each shared resource based on actual use

FILE SCREENING

Prohibited files for servers

  • MPx (which includes MP3, MP2, and others) - all music files
  • VBS - virus protection

(optional)

  • PST - no personal e-mail stores (security issue)
  • GIF and .JPG - for those concerned with downloaded images and objectionable content

Prohibited files for workstations

  • DOC, .XLS, .PPT - corporate work product is required to be stored on server directories with backup
  • VBS - virus protection
  • PST - (as above)
  • GIF;.JPG - (as above)

BACKUP & ARCHIVE

Backup
Full backup weekly, primarily for disaster recovery, incrementals done nightly, weekly tapes off-site after 1 week

Archive
(Optional) If present, then integrated with quota policies

Retrieval
Automatic (but not instantaneous) for archive, 4 hours from backup tape

Performance
Four second maximum delay accessing any server-based file

Source: NTP Software

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at soutimand@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
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