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September 30, 2002—In this issue:
- Do You Need Storage Resource Management?
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Sun Agrees to Purchases Pirus
- EMC Acquires Prisa Networks
- Planning on Getting Certified? Make Sure to Pick Up Our New eBook!
- Real-World Tips and Solutions Here for You
- Storage Highlight: Fibre Channel SANs
- Featured Thread: NT Backup in Windows XP
- Submit Top Product Ideas
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IBM's purchase in August of Storage Resource Management (SRM) vendor TrelliSoft put the spotlight on the benefits that SRM solutions bring to the enterprise data center. With notable vendor-specific exceptions, however, companies have been slow to adopt SRM products, despite the value the products promise in increasing IT efficiency and lowering total IT costs.
SRM might be one of those technologies that continue to appear on the corporate IT futures roadmap--not 100 percent necessary in times of economic hardship, but tremendously useful when IT organizations can afford the time to think about how they can better use resources through predictive analysis, proactive management, and adoption of new storage technologies.
You can divide SRM functions into two categories: those features that provide reporting and analysis capabilities (often based on historical data-gathering) and those that allow automated corrective or other proactive actions based on some type of policy. Although the latter functionality brings a data center the most benefit, most IT administrators aren't ready to rely on automated policies to perform complex SRM. Administrators are interested, but wary.
At its most basic level, SRM provides storage capacity reporting and quota management. Because of the explosive growth of data and the movement of data from server-attached storage to the storage network (Network Attached Storage--NAS--and Storage Area Network--SAN), IT administrators need tools to help them understand where all this data resides as well as what areas of their storage environment are growing (sometimes beyond control). SRM's capacity reporting tools can provide utilization reports (e.g., by host, volume, LUN, device). Administrators can use snapshots of current and historical information to analyze data usage patterns. Excellent graphical reporting capabilities are important for capacity reporting.
Being able to see who's using what storage is part of the picture; being able to restrict or allow access to storage resources takes SRM one step further. As a first step to better managing storage (through data migration, virtualization, and other technologies), quota management functionality lets IT administrators report on and restrict access to storage capacity by directory or by individual user.
More complex SRM functionality includes (but isn't limited to) being able to perform discovery and visualization of the storage environment. This functionality is particularly important for storage networks, where IT administrators can better manage distributed storage in a comprehensive manner rather than by server.
Asset management, charge-back mechanisms and service level agreement (SLA) management are functions that relate business processes to the resources required to support them. To use these features, administrators need varying degrees of application-specific knowledge and might need to know how to customize SRM tools. You can get basic information from vendors, but you'll need to determine how applicable the information is to your particular implementation.
I spoke to a representative of a vendor that had built automated policy-based storage management functionality into its SRM product, but the company was scaling it back because customers weren't comfortable fully automating storage management tasks. Tools that drive automated management are available, but finding comprehensive support for disparate storage devices and OSs in a typical data center is difficult. Regardless of which tool you use, you need to carefully consider SRM policies before you implement them.
More than 20 vendors provide SRM products. Large storage software and hardware vendors such as EMC, Sun Microsystems, Computer Associates (CA), and BMC Software provide comprehensive offerings, but products from these companies tend to focus on the particular vendor's hardware platform or they're so rich in functionality that they require significant care and feeding to implement and use. Smaller vendors that provide SRM tools include Storability Software, Tek-Tools, Precise Software Solutions, and Astrum Software.
SRM tools can immediately benefit your day-to-day disk storage management. Forward-looking administrators should use capacity management, trend analysis, and historical disk utilization data to plan future storage environments. In addition, if your company is ready for proactive storage management, don't hold off on implementing automated policy-based SRM tools--these tools are here today. As with all comprehensive management initiatives, administrators should set aside significant planning and implementation time to realize the cost benefits these products provide.
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2. NEWS AND VIEWS
Sun Microsystems recently announced plans to acquire Pirus Networks, a privately held storage networking company. Pirus, established in 1999, manufactures intelligent storage networking switches for advanced storage services that support multiprotocol storage access through one centrally managed platform. This technology is commonly called storage virtualization.
Sun plans to use the Pirus technology to help its "N1" effort, which aims to unite servers and storage systems into one large computing resource. Sun expects the stock-for-stock transaction to be complete by the end of 2002. http://www.pirus.com
EMC recently acquired Prisa Networks, a privately held supplier of Storage Area Network (SAN) management software. Prisa provides management software for small to midsized SAN environments. Prisa also has an OEM distribution agreement with Dell. EMC values the transaction at approximately $20 million in cash.
Prisa currently develops and sells four products: VisualSAN Network Manager, which discovers, manages, and monitors multivendor SAN devices, such as hubs, routers, storage systems, and switches; VisualSAN Configuration Manager, which lets administrators quickly identify and isolate SAN problems; VisualSAN Performance Manager, which provides realtime performance monitoring and tracking; and VisualSAN Remote Support Suite, which provides remote support tools for SAN installations. Prisa will operate as part of EMC's Open Software organization, and EMC will integrate Prisa's products into its AutoIS strategy.
"The Insider's Guide to IT Certification" eBook is hot off the presses and contains everything you need to know to help you save time and money while preparing for certification exams from Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and CompTIA and have a successful career in IT. Get your copy of the Insider's Guide today!
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Each month, the Storage Admin channel highlights several articles about important storage topics such as backup and recovery, storage-related hardware and software, and application-specific storage. This week, take a look at Mark Weitz's "Storage Area Networks." Mark examines Fibre Channel Storage Area Networks (SANs).
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