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Issue of October 2003 
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Storage Management Challanges

Addressing storage management challenges

Increasing storage volumes and complexity will drive enterprises to look for better means to manage storage. New approaches like de-coupling and Enterprise Storage Automation can help make management tasks easier. by Arun Rao

Computer storage needs have evolved from simply backing up to a tape, to pulling data from multiple sources across the enterprise at any time and managing these functions from a central vantage point. As the volume of data in an enterprise escalates, so does the need for storage-related hardware and software. Large portions of the IT budget, as much as 35 percent by 2003, are estimated to be storage-related. The TCO costs associated with managing these devices and media will amount to several times the purchase price.

Today's networked storage architectures provide new choices in aspects like connectivity, hardware topology, device interconnects, network transport, and access. Adding to this complexity is the fact that today's enterprise storage environment presents mind-boggling diversity. And managing this diversity poses serious business issues in the areas of storage and network provisioning, operational workflow, storage integration, IT staffing, and training.

Complexity

In the present circumstances, the complexity of enterprise storage environments can easily exceed the capabilities of the tools available to manage them effectively. The established storage strategies that organisations have long relied upon, which worked well in smaller, less dynamic environments, often fall short when dealing with today's complex, frequently changing network storage solutions.

The proliferation of new storage technologies and implementations has created real business pain in terms of cost and personnel. These technical challenges are just part of the problem. The lack of automated provisioning and repeatable procedures continues to drive up the cost of storage and hinder its use. In addition, the lack of higher-level storage management to provide storage service levels and charge-back systems complicates storage management and control.

This complexity calls for a new approach to storage management, one that separates or de-couples the management of storage use from the details of managing the storage devices and connections.

Other challenges

Numerous other challenges compound the difficulties created by the diversity of storage:

  • Unrelenting growth: Many organizations continue to report increase in annual storage capacity by more than 100 percent. New applications and the need to store new and different types of data like e-mail and online customer data are raising the demand for more storage to a fever pitch.
  • Escalating costs: Not only is the cost of acquiring and deploying terabytes of storage very high, but the cost of administering this can be significantly greater than the acquisition cost.
  • Inadequate standards: The few standards in place function at levels too low to effectively address enterprise storage management requirements. New, higher-level standards are just emerging and have not yet achieved widespread acceptance.
  • Limited interoperability: While industry efforts to achieve widespread, high-level interoperability have been somewhat successful, the underlying system and interconnect functions continue to use proprietary management interfaces.
  • Rapid technical innovation: New storage technologies, interfaces, and protocols continue to emerge at astonishing speed. This adds to the complexity, often degrading staff productivity, and requiring absorption into enterprise storage management systems, policies, and procedures.

Inadequate Tools

In addition to the above challenges, enterprises creating or revising a storage management strategy may encounter additional, management-related challenges that further complicate the situation.

These include:

  • System-specific management: Management tools typically are tightly coupled with a particular vendor's storage devices or storage solutions. This built-in vendor bias frequently limits or prevents the use of the management tool with other devices or solutions.
  • Multiple point solutions: Due to specialized and limited-function software, managers must learn, deploy, and use multiple tools to perform even simple management tasks, which produce point solution chaos.
  • Console proliferation: Storage administrators must access and learn different, often separate, management consoles. They may require several such consoles to manage a diversity of devices and applications. An administrator often must view and correlate information from four or more different screens or windows to perform a single storage management task.
  • Incompatible tools: Different point solutions do not work together to perform a complex task or a complete process, which create significant management inefficiencies that increase costs.
  • Incompatible data: The various management tools cannot easily share data. The tools collect different data and store and transmit it in different formats. Administrators are forced to jump from tool to tool to retrieve data and manually aggregate it. The lack of easily aggregated and co-related data makes it difficult or impossible to manage storage.

To live with it

In an era of simpler, less dynamic storage configurations, enterprises have found ways to live with these problems or work around them. Today the challenge for enterprise storage management vendors is to provide a new level of enterprise storage management that addresses the larger problem of managing storage without boundaries. This will provide the foundation for intelligent, rules-based, and policy-driven storage management.

The new management processes will automatically discover storage resources as they are added to the infrastructure and intelligently configure those resources, allocate capacity, balance workloads, move data to the most appropriate storage, and manage backup and recovery. It would do all this without requiring the active involvement of a storage administrator.

Automation

Visionary approaches like 'Enterprise Storage Automation' will deliver a comprehensive set of solutions that would integrate all major areas of storage management—data availability, storage resource management, media management, and SAN and NAS storage management—through an easily accessible storage portal for centralized control.

Another major revolution in the storage management field will be the de-coupling of storage use from actual storage. By enabling this, enterprises will be in a position to achieve what storage 'gurus' consider a new approach to storage management and gain control over increasingly complex storage environments.

De-coupling will speed the addition of new capacity by eliminating the laborious task of manually configuring the storage, migrating data, and updating backup scripts. Similarly, it will enable administrators to define policies to automate storage operations and manage workflow without having to manually execute those operations and processes on diverse, individual storage systems and devices.

De-coupling helps

Rules will enable enterprises to implement and enforce best storage practices, while de-coupling will make it easier to take advantage of new storage capacity, new capabilities, and new technologies. These capabilities can dramatically increase personnel efficiencies while reducing the opportunities for potentially disastrous human error.

The proliferation of new storage technologies and implementations has created real business pain in terms of cost and personnel. These technical challenges are just part of the problem. The lack of automated provisioning and repeatable procedures continues to drive up the cost of storage and hinder its use. In addition, the lack of higher-level storage management to provide storage service levels and charge-back systems complicates storage management and control.

By de-coupling storage management from storage implementation and building in broad management intelligence, storage management vendors make possible a level of dynamic enterprise storage automation that has previously proven to be very difficult to achieve.

Market changes

From being looked at as a backend product, storage today has assumed a significant level of importance and is at the core of a business strategy.

More work, however, needs to be done before seamless, intelligent, heterogeneous enterprise storage management can become a reality. These would pertain to areas like standards development, management application development, and third party participation.

Arun Rao is the National Manager, Storage Business, at Computer Associates. He can be reached at arun.rao@ca.com

 
     
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