Managing the Exploding Growth in Storage

Is your storage growth getting unmanageable? 

In a global neighborhood that just hit 7 billion at last count, our planet is experiencing a population explosion. Similarly, our IT industry is experiencing a data explosion.

Data growth led to a reported 60-70% growth in overall storage in 2011 with no end in sight.   Virtualization and thin provisioning provide better utilization of server and storage resources.  However, it’s not all you need.

What you need now is a way to better manage and further scale your storage assets to meet the service needs of your end-users.

But, it may require some new thinking.

Storage Management Challenge

The need for improved storage management tools is being driven by three factors: 

1. Exploding Data and Other Hazards

First, data growth is driving th eneed for more storage at a time when a worldwide disk drive shortage is driving up the cost of adding new capacity. This means that data center managers must optimize their investments in storage to keep costs in line with capital and operating budgets.

2. Virtualization – the New IT Standard 

Second, virtualization has now become the norm. 

For many organizations, virtual machines are now the rule rather than the exception when deploying new servers. Similarly, thin provisioning and automated storage tiering technologies like EMC’s FAST are being rapidly adopted because of the significant benefits they provide in increasing utilization and optimizing storage investments. 

However, sometimes the solution can become the problem.Virtualization introduces layers of abstraction that, without the right tools, make it difficult to understand infrastructure dependencies to ensure consistent service levels and optimize resource investments.

3. IT-as-a-Business 

Third, businesses have become even more dependent on IT to deliver differentiating value to their organizations.The increased demand for new services comes at a time when budgets are constrained.  As a result, IT must be able to manage more capacity with fewer resources, and to make service-level decisions that meet both cost and performance objectives.     

What are you to do?

Transform Storage Management—and Yourself

If you’re in the position of managing a data center, you’ll probably agree that most of the cost of running and maintaining a storage infrastructure are contained in hardware, software, facilities, and personnel.  

Hardware, software, and facility costs are generally a function of footprint or capacity under management.  Studies have shown that there is also a finite amount of capacity that each administrator can manage.  So, in many ways personnel costs are also a function of the capacity under management.

To control these costs as your capacity grows, you must increase your capacity utilization rate, improve your storage price/performance ratio, and define service-level policies and use the most cost-effective policy that meets your application performance requirements.

Thin provisioning improves utilization by allocating capacity on demand from a central pool of resources.   Technologies like FAST reduce the price/performance ratio of storage by combining the benefits of low cost, higher capacity SATA drives with higher performance Flash drives.  FAST also enables you to create service levels through FAST policies that define a mix of low cost versus higher performance drives to meet a range of price/performance objectives.    

Transform Storage Management

While thin provisioning and automated storage tiering make better use of storage, it takes tools built for virtual environments to deliver the needed service levels—and to increase what each storage admin can manage. Fortunately, new management tools have emerged to help you gain the needed visibility to deliver consistent service levels as you broaden your use of storage technologies in virtual environments. 

An example of one of these new storage management tools is EMC ProSphere

ProSphere is storage management purpose-built for the cloud. 

It is delivered as a vApp and deployed onto your VMware infrastructure using the wizards in vCenter. Agent-less technology based on industry standards such as SMI-S, SNMP, WMI, SSH, and the VMware API discover your complete environment.

Built upon EMC’s highly scalable Greenplum database, it is designed to meet the demands of the world’s largest data centers. This architecture makes ProSphere easy to deploy into VMware infrastructure, and extensible via the industry-standard interfaces to conceivably any network, any storage, and any size.      

With ProSphere you can easily search on and manage objects from a single console, no matter where they reside. ProSphere can support more than 1.2 million volumes, 36,000 SAN ports, and 18,000 hosts from a single browser window.

Installation is a breeze and usually takes less than 60 minutes because of the VMware integration and lack of host agents. Many customers’ environments can be discovered in less than a day.   

ProSphere’s visualization capabilities provide insight into the end-to-end relationships and dependencies that support application services. It displays relationship and topology views from virtual guests, through the SAN switch to tiered storage devices and their related pools.  It also consolidates alerts across SAN switches and arrays and displays impacts with a just a couple of clicks. 

Something called Smart Groups enables admins to quickly group objects based on common characteristics to simplify management, in large growing data centers. 

As an example, you can create Smart Groups to set performance data collection policies on all of your Exchange servers in just a few simple steps. 

Additionally, ProSphere’s federated architecture aggregates views across data center sites providing a single console to manage all of your storage.  

You can also track configuration changes and monitor compliance with design best practices and interoperability guidelines to ensure you environment is always configured right to meet service-level requirements.

ProSphere’s tight integration with tier storage like FAST enables you to optimize your investment in storage.  ProSphere tracks historical performance at the physical or virtual host level to identify performance trends that determine if the right FAST policy has been selected for any host in the environment.  

But, is ProSphere enough?

Or, do you have to approach storage with a new mindset?

Transform Yourself

The answer is a new paradigm. Technology coupled with an organizational approach to delivering storage-as-a-service rather than storage as a resource to be doled out solely to stand-up new applications.

You need the new tools…and you need to think about how you apply them differently. 

You are more like a business owner than ever before. You need to keep you constituents happy. This means getting out of the back office and working with the stakeholders.

It’s implied in new tools such as ProSphere. To effectively use storage management you need to think and act in terms of service delivery.

But, the tool is only as good as the user. Make the change and you’ve transformed yourself.

Then, between ProSphere and you, storage growth is manageable!

About the Author: Mark Prahl

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