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Storage resource management: might be the secret to optimizing your storage.

"Simplify your life. Organize your closets and lose some of that excess

This was a sign I recently read in a home improvement store for a closet organizer system. The product promised shoppers that if they would just assess what they have and consolidate, unused capacity would await them, and they may even have room for more stuff.

The benefits associated with cleaning out your closet are not unlike the benefits of cleaning up your storage environment--or at least knowing what is taking up space. Many organizations understand that they need look no further than their own storage systems to come up with extra capacity and defer new storage hardware purchases.

Drive Improved Utilization by Knowing What You've Got

Research by IBM of both mid-size and large organizations indicated that in many storage area network (SAN) environments, utilization was running at only 48%. Improving this storage utilization is more important than ever in order to accommodate changing business demands and ensure network resiliency.

By the end of 2002, the average Fortune 500 company had more than 48 terabytes (TB) of server-based disk storage. At current trends, this will increase to more than 230TB by the end of 2007, according to a study by International Technology Group (Los Altos, CA). When faced with managing such data growth, storage resource management (SRM) software can help give IT administrators a detailed view of what is in their storage environment and serve as the first step in improving utilization. One of the first steps to improving storage utilization is understanding what and how much data is stored, and when it was last accessed.

The promise of storage resource management is that it can help storage administrators meet the challenge of reducing business risk, improving storage utilization, reducing administration costs, meeting service level agreements, and ensuring application availability. IT administrators must know and understand their environments in order to better utilize the resources they already have.

Many vendors today are providing the tools that allow businesses to do just this. Policy-driven automated tools that manage storage capacity, availability, events and assets are enabling organizations to dramatically increase storage utilization. SRM software that tightly integrates with systems management software, like IBM Tivoli Storage Resource Manager, can also go a long way in helping to ensure application availability and deliver on service levels.

Optimize Your Backup

Imagine if it cost you a dollar a month to store each item in your home's junk drawer. You might think twice about throwing in all of your trade show trinkets, postcards, coupons and matchbooks. You would probably even go through that drawer once in a while to toss out expired coupons, old invitations and dried-up pens.

Managing the backup of data in the storage environment is very similar to this scenario because there are costs involved with storing everything. The tapes used for backup cost money and there is the need to consider the additional costs to manage the media. Over time, storing everything adds up. Without a good understanding of what is being stored, a great deal of effort is wasted in backing up unnecessary data such as MP3 files, duplicate files, files without owners and expired files. An SRM tool can help you identify these non-essential files so they don't take valuable storage space away from business critical data. Additionally, SRM tools that use policy-based automation can further automate the process and remove those files from the storage environment automatically.

For ensuring efficient backup and recovery, SRM tools can also indicate how often data is accessed and modified, which is useful in validating the backup methodology. For example, this could help uncover daily backups that are performed on data that is only modified on a monthly basis. It can be an essential tool for helping ensure that critical data remains protected and is backed up as efficiently as possible by prioritizing business critical data and eliminating unnecessary files.

Beyond Cleaning Up: Counting the Costs

Improving the efficiency of the storage environment not only helps reduce costs, it significantly improves key variables of service quality including availability, response time, service time or application-level throughput (the time required to complete an end-to-end business task or process). It also has a direct impact on backup and recovery capability. High service quality means the avoidance of disruptions and risks, which has an obvious impact on the bottom line.

Application downtime can incur a real dollar cost. Keeping applications available 24X7 is critical to meet business demands. Storage management software capable of monitoring and managing storage associated with mission-critical applications can help ensure storage network resiliency and help avoid storage-related downtime.

Let Your Storage Do the Thinking

Storage administrators have a lot of things to worry about: backup and recovery, storage management, provisioning, and the list goes on. The next evolution of storage management uses policies to simplify tasks. Automated storage management triggered by software can help increase storage efficiency, reduce administration costs, improve productivity and reduce risks due to error.

As organizations are faced with evolving business models that require new levels of responsiveness, automated software can help relieve some of the storage administrator's burden by responding dynamically. It can also help proactively diagnose storage systems from end-to-end and help prevent and heal problems for a more reliable, efficient storage environment.

Assessing the clutter in your storage environment and evaluating your data protection methodology are not one-time tasks. Neither is setting policies for automation. These are all part of an ongoing process that ensures the health and efficiency of the storage environment.


Storage Resource Management Can Get You Off on the Right Foot

Before investing in new storage technology such as SAN or NAS, SRM is a key first step to evaluating the storage environment and maximizing storage dollars before spending on more infrastructure, SRM can help determine which data is best deployed on which storage platform and can help prevent systemic problems from reappearing on new storage platforms.

In general terms, NAS is deployed because of its simple installation and lower costs, including reduced maintenance requirements. SANs are deployed when large amounts of data need to be accessed with high performance and high availability. Because SANs are generally expensive, it's extremely important to intelligently plan a SAN migration and then manage the SAN over time.

The best candidates for migration to a SAN are mission-critical and transaction-oriented imaging applications, although multimedia applications also make good candidates. But evaluating the applications alone isn't enough.

Understanding data is critically important when planning a SAN. SRM software can find the largest concentration of the largest files, which might also make good candidates for SAN migration. SRM software analyzes data usage (frequency of data access and data modification) to help determine what data might be a candidate for a SAN, even if it isn't underlying a mission-critical or transactional system.

Understanding what you have, who is using it and why it's growing can help pinpoint and avoid problems now and in the future. As you plan and implement your SAN, remember that a SAN in itself will not inherently solve storage problems. A SAN can allow you to grow storage capacity, increase performance and add flexibility to your storage environment. A SAN will not help you understand and manage your data, or monitor and alert you to issues with your data storage--that is precisely what SRM delivers.

SRM software can help maintain the availability, performance and integrity of a SAN and can help control costs, not only by reducing or avoiding wasted space but also by enabling you to forecast and charge back--or threaten to charge back--for storage usage. After the SAN is in place, SRM can help stop bad habits from sneaking back into this more expensive storage resource.

Laura Sanders is vice president, Tivoli Storage Products, at IBM Tivoli (Austin, TX)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Storage Management
Author:Sanders, Laura
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Previous Article:Backup and recovery is not dead.
Next Article:New speeds for FC protocols.

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