Cover Story: Storage Management
Managing your storage infrastructure
With multiple terabytes of data being generated by Indian
companies, managing storage infrastructure is a big challenge say Abhinav Singh
& Akhtar Pasha
The days when Indian enterprises had modest
storage requirements are long gone. Banks are the leaders in data generation,
accounting for 5-10 TB of data annually. The Indian BPO segment generates 2-4
TB of data every year. Segregating and prioritizing mission critical data while
doing backup and retrieval, and managing large storage set-ups are the biggest
challenges facing India Inc. All this is driving the need for enterprise-wide
Bringing uniformity to storage solutions
The biggest problem faced by Indian enterprises
is that of interoperability, or rather the lack of it. Surjit Sen, regional
manager (West) of Network Appliance says, "The major problem for enterprises
is a complete lack of standards as far as the storage industry is concerned.
The industry has mushroomed without any uniformity, although (the formation
of) bodies like SNIA (Storage Network Industry Association) is a step in that
direction, much remains to be done." Most storage vendors have proprietary solutions
leading to the Tower of Babel situation that's prevalent today. Uniform standards
will squash many of the management issues bedevilling Indian companies. With
evolving models like CIM (Common interface model) and increased participation
of vendors in exchanging APIs, the solution appears to be in sight.
Managing storage infrastructure costs
Keeping the cost of managing infrastructure
from escalating is a major problem. The aim is to provide single window management.
Effective management of hardware in a scenario of rapid technological change,
decreasing budgets and increased demand for reliability lies at the heart of
today's corporate concerns. Agendra Kumar, country manager Veritas says, "As
data volumes generated by enterprises are increasing, so is complexity. To utilize
storage effectively, companies need administrators." The increased headcount
bumps up the cost of managing storage infrastructure.
Deal with complexities
With storage systems getting more complex
by the day, it is a challenge for enterprises to manage them. S. R. Balasubramanian,
vice president-IT at HDFC Bank says, "Storage systems are complex and highly
sophisticated. As of now, skill sets available in the local market are low,
which leads to issues emerging during the initial implementation of storage
solutions. However, the market will mature in due course of time. These issues
can be tackled by properly training technical staff on SAN and NAS."
Although distributed high-performance storage
systems share common ground with traditional network and systems management,
they still present unique storage-related issues like interoperability and the
complexity involved in managing storage systems.
Rana Dutta, regional director APAC, Movinture
storage networks says, "Industry-driven consortia provide open forums where
vendors and users co-operate to leverage solutions. But these new approaches
to open management fall short of addressing the need for scalable, distributed
Enterprises need to utilize their storage
infrastructure more efficiently by improving storage utilization and performance.
It has become important for enterprises to allocate storage as per the priority
of the data, and then replicate it as per the monetary tag attached to it, on
the basis of data priority. For data protection, enterprises are looking at
better management of their tape libraries and backup operations.
Are storage management solutions the answer?
Opinions are mixed regarding the effectiveness
of storage management software. While most folks agree that these products lessen
the pain of managing storage infrastructure the jury is still out on whether
they are an answer to all storage management issues.
Madhusudan Rao B, Business Manager, of
Apara Enterprise Solutions says, "Storage management software is able to manage
storage to a certain extent, but not fully. There is a need for vendors to adhere
to common standards. This will simplify the management of storage hardware."
Unfortunately, that's yet to happen.
There are doubts that storage management
solutions from vendor X will work to the same extent with storage solutions
offered by another vendor, as they do with the vendor X's own products. Many
enterprises are using storage solutions being provided by hardware vendors rather
than going in for a third-party solution.
Balasubramanian of HDFC bank says, "We
use management software provided by the hardware supplier of the storage systems.
This is because of the difficulty in integrating third-party software and the
interoperability issues faced."
Similar sentiments have been raised by
Sunil Rangreji, General Manager, global IT infrastructure at Wipro Technologies.
He says, "We have used storage management software from the hardware vendor
as their tools are integrated with their platform."
Rangreji informs that Wipro uses third-party
storage management software like Unicenter and Altiris for managing backup on
desktops and laptops. Bank of Muscat is also using storage management software
from its hardware supplier (HP). HP has supplied Veritas file systems storage
management software to Bank of Muscat.
Third-party storage management software
vendors, on the other hand, claim that their software can successfully meet
the needs of enterprises.
Kumar of Veritas says, "Storage management
software is important for enterprises because it drastically cuts the number
of people required to manage a storage set-up."
Similarly, Arun Rao, national manager,
storage business, Computer Associates, India says, "We work with all platforms
and take down every detail of a storage set-up in an enterprise and architect
our solutions as per requirements so that the software efficiently manages the
iGATE GLOBAL Solutions is using third-party
storage software from Veritas for its backup requirements, it uses BackupExec.
iGATE GLOBAL Solutions also uses in-house tools to track its backup archives.
It is worth considering that effective
storage software helps an organization save on disks by letting departments
and applications pool storage resources. Storage software helps bring down the
cost of labour by automating processes that required manual intervention, reducing
the dependence on specialists for keeping the corporate data center up and running.
What about storage virtualization?
Storage virtualization generally refers
to the process of converting all the storage hardware in an organization into
a single vast pool of storage resources. It involves aggregating storage devices
and their capacity, into 'virtual volumes' without regard for the physical layout
or the topology of the actual boxes. Typically, these virtual volumes are presented
to PCs and servers as abstractions of the physical devices and are used by the
operating systems on the client boxes as if they were distinct disk drives or
separate storage subsystems.
The virtualization of storage assets typically
involves the use of centralized SAN management software. Along with other features,
virtualization software helps storage administrators in provisioning storage
resources, letting them migrate or replace obsolete storage subsystems without
server shutdowns or interruptions in data access. Data management can be significantly
enhanced through storage applications such as Snapshot, Mirroring, and Remote
Replication that often require the creation and expansion of virtual volumes.
A typical SAN gains functionality when storage virtualization is adopted.
The first step toward storage virtualization
is to combine physical storage assets (even devices from multiple vendors) into
virtual storage pools that can be divided and securely assigned to servers.
These servers then see the storage as virtual disk pools, each delivering a
specific Quality of Service (QoS), redundancy, robustness, and performance.
With virtualized storage, CIOs can slice and dice consolidated storage capacity
and dynamically allocate it to servers or applications.
Storage virtualization is yet to pick up
in India. Most Indian enterprises are either not using it or are planning to
use it at a later stage. For instance, Bank of Muscat and iGATE GLOBAL Solutions
aren't using storage virtualization whereas HDFC Bank may use it in six months
to a year. Wipro has a roadmap on storage virtualization and plans to adopt
this concept in the near future, but the exact time frame hasn't been decided
Rangreji of Wipro says, "We want to bring
everything on a virtual storage space where employees will be able to access
their data on the Intranet from anywhere."
storage provisioning is just starting to catch on in India. Madhusudan
of Apara says "There needs to be a more structured approach when
it comes to billing for usage. Companies are still evaluating this concept."
However, it is important to note that storage on-demand can help large
organizations and data centers, where storage demand varies dynamically
and justifies the cost of putting it in place. It will also help organizations
meet storage needs as and when required.
Rangreji of Wipro is upbeat about the concept and says, "We are
very much for storage on-demand, as we do not want to stick to one particular
storage vendor. We feel that there needs to be a combination of different
vendors when it comes to storage."
Upbeat about the storage on-demand concept, Tejas Desai national business
manager, Data Storage Solutions, Enterprise Products, Wipro Infotech says,
"On-demand storage is an exciting concept. It helps an enterprise
use storage as per its requirement."
Backing IBM's storage on-demand strategy Shailesh Agarwal, Country manager-Storage,
IBM India says, "IBM's on-demand storage is based on a 'pay as you
grow' model. It allows customers to pay a fixed monthly price for hardware,
software and services."
IBM is trying to increase the financial flexibility of its offerings
with Standby Capacity on Demand for storage systems. Under this option,
a customer pays for only 10 to 15 percent of the storage requirement in
advance and the balance 90 percent as and when it is needed. IBM's storage
systems ship with additional capacity and a customer activates storage
as it is needed.
Agarwal adds, "The next phase of technology spending won't be driven
by a chip or an operating system, but by a drive for productivity and
more flexible cost structures for businesses."
Sun's N1 is designed to lower the cost of operating corporate data centers
through more efficient use of storage and servers. Sun's N1 Data Platform
can pool, or 'virtualize' the storage capacity of multiple storage arrays
so that businesses can allocate resources to meet their needs more efficiently.
For example, a company could dedicate more storage and servers to handle
a spike in workload arising from the processing of monthly financial reports.
Valluri of Sun says, "The real value-add to corporations is the management
of a storage pool, along with automated backup and recovery, and quality
of service. The system will provide a consolidated view of several storage
arrays and allow administrators to allocate resources from the console.
The platform is being targeted to larger sectors like telecommunications,
financial services, manufacturing and ultimately the government."
Sun says that Tata Teleservices Limited (TTSL) is using its N1 platform.
According to the company, TTSL would use its N1 architecture for its data
centers, for better utilization of storage and servers.
EMC has capacity-on-demand (COD), which is based on the pay-as-you-grow
model. COD adds automated monitoring software tools that eliminate the
overhead of manually checking how much capacity a company is using.
"Without this tool, capacity on demand just wasn't feasible because
of which our COD offering got delayed," says Arun Rawtani, country
TSG manager, EMC Information Systems NV.
Measuring consumption manually used to take a long time. Telcos and
financial institutions will benefit from offerings such as COD as they
operate in an environment where terabytes of data are added, every quarter.
|Selecting the right storage management solution
need to thoroughly investigate the claims of storage vendors before
buying their tools.
- Storage software that provides an integrated software console, service
assurance, performance management and fault protection is critical.
Anil Valluri, Director-Systems Engineering, Sun Microsystems India,
says, "The right storage management software should be CIM compliant
(Common Information Model)." It should support open standards.
- It is important to analyze a vendor's specialization in policy management,
and decide if the vendor's level of development and timeline is right
for the enterprise.
- Enterprises need to have uniformity in selecting tools from vendors.
For instance, selecting different vendors for backup and recovery, storage
resource management, and SAN/NAS management can lead to three different
policy engines with limited integration.
- When analyzing products in these areas, create a list of vendors
that fill the three different needs of backup & recovery, storage
resource management and SAN/NAS management, so that a single policy
engine can control all these areas offering automation, tight integration,
and easy management.
- Storage management is effective only if it saves time and money.
It should enable automation, reduce downtime or streamline a business
process such as recovery. Users should keep this in mind as they plan
their storage management policy strategy.
|Storage Management software
- Storage management software is important for enterprises because
it drastically cuts the number of people required to manage a storage
set-up. It helps in automating processes that previously required manual
intervention, thereby requiring fewer specialists to keep a corporate
data center up and running. This helps an enterprise save money.
- Storage software can help an organization save on disks by letting
departments and applications use pooled storage resources.
- While storage management software does help manage and provision
storage to a certain extent, it doesn't do everything that it shouldit
is not effective in managing data replication across boxes from different
vendors; it may have interoperability problems. Much remains to be done
in terms of adhering to common standards.
- CIOs have doubts about the efficacy of storage management solutions
from a particular vendor, while managing storage hardware from other
vendors. Many enterprises are using storage solutions provided by the
hardware supplier rather than going in for a third-party solution.
The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) launched the Storage
Management Initiative (SMI) in mid-2002, to create and encourage the universal
adoption of an open interface for managing storage networks. The SMI's
main aim is to deliver open storage network management interface technology
in the form of an SMI Specification (SMI-S). SMI-S is based on the Common
Information Model (CIM) and Web Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) standards
developed by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF).
Common Information Model is an open standard prescribed for storage
vendors by the SNIA to bring uniformity to the storage industry. Storage
vendors are beginning to adopt CIM by developing their products according
to the standard. This is expected to solve the problem of interoperability.
For instance, if a customer wants to purchases a storage box from two
different vendors both of whom adhere to the CIM standard and later decides
to go in for storage virtualization it becomes easy for him to do so and
he will not face any interoperability problemsHitachi, HP and Sun
are already following this standard and more are expected to follow suit.
Akhtar Pasha can be reached at email@example.com