Archives ||About Us || Advertise || Feedback || Subscribe-
-
Issue of September 2003 
-

  -  
 
 Home > Cover Story
 Print Friendly Page ||  Email this story

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 storage management.

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 storage."

Optimum utilization

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 storage set-up."

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 yet.

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."

On-demand storage provisioning

On-demand 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
  • Enterprises 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

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • While storage management software does help manage and provision storage to a certain extent, it doesn't do everything that it should—it 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.
Common Information Model (CIM)

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 problems—Hitachi, HP and Sun are already following this standard and more are expected to follow suit.

Akhtar Pasha can be reached at akhtar@expresscomputeronline.com

 
     
- <Back to Top>-  

Copyright 2001: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Limited (Mumbai, India). All rights reserved throughout the world.
This entire site is compiled in Mumbai by the Business Publications Division (BPD) of the Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Limited. Site managed by BPD.