Storage Resource Management (SRM) might not be at the forefront of most Windows administrators' minds; they're too busy trying to figure out new technology advancements such as Internet SCSI (iSCSI), Network Attached Storage (NAS), and Storage Area Network (SAN). However, as storage technologies evolve, the amount of data center storage continues to grow, and the employed technologies become more diverse, SRM solutions will be of paramount importance. Let's look into the future a bit by reviewing the key SRM requirements for Windows storage.
Traditionally, SRM is defined as the processes and technologies employed for capacity planning, configuration, discovery, monitoring, provisioning, and reporting of storage components, devices, and infrastructures. In essence, storage management is all about efficient management and maximization of the availability and integrity of business-critical data. If you believe IDC's predictions that external storage-system capacities will increase fivefold by 2007 (a compound annual growth rate of about 50 percent from 2003 to 2007), we're going to need SRM for Windows environments more than ever. To make matters worse, we can almost certainly count on budgets decreasing or at best staying flat, making the need for better storage-management capabilities even more urgent. Yet, with all these changes on the horizon, Microsoft currently has no products planned for addressing these needs and intends to let vendors such as CreekPath Systems fill this niche. Nevertheless, let's dream a little about the ideal Windows storage-management solution.
Gartner defines SRM as having several key components, including:
- central management console
- discovery and configuration-management database
- provisioning and chargeback
- quota management
- performance and event management
- capacity planning and management
- reporting and decision support
Most interesting to me are the items that are missing from this list. For example, what role should SRM play in business continuance and disaster recovery? How far down the Open System Interconnection (OSI) stack should SRM go? Should SRM take the place of vendor tools that manage devices down to the physical layer and perform functions such as fabric management (e.g., access control, zoning)? We might not reach nirvana with regard to SRM being everything we want it to be (whether we're talking about Windows or another OS) for a while. The concept of SRM is still evolving, and expert opinions differ about what SRM should encompass.
You've probably experienced the difficulties of managing storage in a Windows environment. If you manage large SANs with multiple hosts, would you like to have a tool that handles fabric management? Would you like to have one tool that manages multiple vendors? Are you tired of managing cluster complexities? Would you like to have a solution that effectively deals with both clusters and storage? What about the huge amount of wasted space that exists in your storage infrastructure (experts estimate that 40 percent to 60 percent of today's storage is underutilized)? Would you like to have a tool or application that makes the most of your investment by proactively managing, monitoring, and reprovisioning storage resources on the fly? These questions illustrate the difficulties Windows administrators face managing their storage resources. I'm sure you can think of many more examples.
Today, a fragmented solution exists between the storage-management tools that Microsoft provides and those that third parties bring to the market. However, organizations such as the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and its Disk Resource Management (DRM) Work Group (see http://www.snia.org to learn more about SNIA) are endeavoring to provide a framework for managing storage resources by working with the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) to employ Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) and the Common Information Model (CIM) (see http://www.dmtf.org for more information about this initiative). Microsoft doesn't produce full-featured SRM software, but the company is entering the storage-management market with products such as Windows Storage Server 2003, and these recent investments indicate that Microsoft is maturing in the market. Although the company's storage solutions are starting off small by targeting the small and midsized business market, I believe that Microsoft's solutions will eventually move up to the enterprise level. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to someday see Microsoft jump into the SRM market with a full-featured solution. Until then, we'll have to make do with what we have. But it never hurts to dream.