Two colliding forces are compelling organizations to rethink storage strategies: explosive data growth and increasingly complex global network infrastructures. Today’s enterprise companies are intertwined in a global economy, increasing the need for immediate access to critical information from any location. Meanwhile, information and data continue to grow at phenomenal rates, creating an environment where disciplined management is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity for competitive survival.

Information is a company’s most important capital asset. IDC estimates that the rate of storage growth at Global 2000 companies is between 60 and 100 percent annually. Merrill Lynch projects that from 1999 to 2004, a typical company’s total server capacity will grow at an annual compounded rate of 60 percent. Furthermore, as the cost of storage hardware has continued to decrease, the cost to manage information storage has skyrocketed. Companies have gone from housing gigabytes of data in single locations to storing terabytes of information in heterogeneous systems worldwide. These factors demonstrate that manual storage management practices are no longer viable from an operational or economical perspective. Storage, application, SAN, network and database administrators all need a way to navigate the complexities of remote distributed systems.

In order to meet the challenge of managing vast resources, maintaining order within complex infrastructures and locating key information through an enterprise, IT managers need comprehensive, intelligent and automated solutions. This is where storage resource management (SRM) enters the picture, providing a disciplined approach for reigning in the costly problem of exploding storage.

Hardware is Part of the Problem – Not the Solution

When a corporate network is close to reaching its storage capacity, the usual response from IT managers is just to add more hardware, because it is inexpensive. However, while the cost of storage hardware continues to decrease, hidden costs lie in day-to-day data management of larger, more complex systems. Today, organizations battle with islands of storage, much of which is underutilized because there have not been tools available to maximize space utilization. Companies have millions of files to maintain, back up, archive or migrate. Some of these files contain data that is valuable and critical to the company. Other files are unused and outdated – a waste of space. Gartner Inc. estimates that the cost of managing storage today is eight times greater than the cost of the storage hardware itself. As a result, businesses will face a management crisis as expenses for these critical resources continue to spiral out of control.

To stay ahead of potential chaos, companies must keep an inventory of storage consumption and allocation to ensure appropriate performance and availability. Administrators have begun to deploy rules such as limiting the amount of storage and forcing users to purge old files. For example, some companies have established quotas that prohibit users from sending or receiving e-mails until they have eliminated some of their files and created free space.

Storage administrators must also keep an inventory of which people, divisions and applications are using the most storage and how often files need to be backed up, archived or deleted. Add to that the responsibility of future growth planning and providing 24x7 availability, and it is easy to see why managing these precious resources can be tedious and costly. All these factors point to a single conclusion: SRM tools are required to make efficient management possible.

Benefits to Implementing an SRM Solution

Many IT managers want the Holy Grail of storage – a system where data is accessed in a seamless manner, regardless of time or location. They want applications that are universally accessible and available around the clock. Users want to access data in much the same way as they access their telephone, water and electricity. But to do this, there must be an automated, seamless and intelligent way to manage it all.

SRM provides a framework for organizations to efficiently and effectively manage information to make more intelligent business decisions. This enterprise software is rapidly evolving from a basic tool that monitors and reports on isolated storage devices into an automated engine that builds in best practices for enterprise-wide storage management which better supports customer and company requirements. Ultimately, SRM provides a consolidated view to monitor, measure and control all storage resources and deploy active policies that prevent interruption of service and ensure adequate planning for future growth.

SRM manages both storage devices (physical resources) and the more abstract groupings that represent data units (logical resources) from a centralized management perspective. Thus, SRM gives the administrator a view of storage that is independent of both physical changes (such as hot-swapping disks) and logical data movement (moving data from one storage system to another).

SRM plays a prominent role in reducing storage-management complexity. For example, with SRM an enterprise can accomplish the following tasks:

  • Use storage assets more cost-effectively by finding unused storage assets and/or by eliminating stale and redundant data.
  • Maximize storage capabilities by supporting server consolidation, determining where storage resides and ensuring that the right storage is in the right places at the right time.
  • Prevent unplanned downtime caused by space constraints and improve storage availability by scheduling planned maintenance using storage-configuration changes that have minimal impact on end users.
  • Improve service levels by maximizing storage capabilities, allowing users to enjoy increased availability standards for storage as well as the general network architecture.

A Disciplined Approach to Storage

In order to achieve the benefits just listed, companies need to do two things: invest in an SRM solution and develop a disciplined storage strategy that supports long-term business objectives and budgetary constraints. There are several usability factors that should be considered when researching an SRM application:

  • Enterprise-wide capabilities: Support for both mainframe and distributed environments.
  • Multiple location support: Ability to offer password-protected access for multiple users in more than one location from more than one location.
  • Vendor interoperability: Multiplatform and multivendor support to avoid interoperability headaches.
  • File-level details: Detailed file- level information for systematic and scalable data control, management, movement and/or predictive action.
  • Browser-based interface: Enables use of software without relying on client-side installations.
  • Search capabilities: Provides the ability to search for a specific file, group of files or type of files.
  • Real-time capabilities: Allows a user to browse or track, in real time, file information instead of having to take a snapshot of the entire storage network or device.

Additionally, a complete, effective and disciplined approach to storage resource management should include a software product that is architected to support the following 10 distinct features:

  • Asset management tracks and keeps records of all physical storage hardware on network
  • Capacity management compiles real-time and historical data on storage resources such as unused space on specific volumes
  • Chargeback acts as an accountant for billing end-user departments for used storage capacity and other storage-related network resources
  • Configuration management determines how to best arrange current physical network storage such as disk subsystems and switches
  • Data/device/media migration enables large amounts of data to be moved from one system to another
  • Event management alerts system administrators to errors on storage devices such as hard-drive failures and records all events
  • Performance management provides an ongoing view of application, server and subsystem performance such as excessive I/O from application servers
  • Policy management specifies rules or policies for managing hardware, files, users, schedules and media
  • Business continuity reporting identify critical data that is not being backed up; report on the status of backup and recovery jobs; and plan remote copies, mirroring and backups
  • Quota/space use management optimizes disk usage by assigning specific space allotments to users and reclaiming wasted space

By seeking a solution that supports these usability requirements as well as the general product features, organizations will be a step ahead of the competition, will provide a framework for long-term storage management and will be able to intelligently plan for future storage needs.

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