Service Assurance In The Cloud

How do you provide service assurance in your virtualized data center or cloud?

Read any blog, online article, or hard copy publication about the IT industry and you will likely see much about the future of IT. But, it is the every-day challenges and victories that often determine success in the long run.

While the industry considers more logical abstractions to further loosen the ties between business processes and physical infrastructure, IT management needs to assure ongoing application availability and performance in virtual and cloud deployments with a high rate of data growth. IT needs solutions that provide a complete picture of data center health across compute, network, and storage.

The just-announced EMC Storage Resource Management Suite provides service assurance from application-to-storage by monitoring and reporting on availability, performance, and compliance. It combines EMC storage management and analysis with technologies from the recent Watch4net acquisition to ensure application consistency in dynamic data centers.

Big Growth, Big Headaches

Is data growth too much of a good thing?

No. It just needs to be managed correctly.

Last year data growth led to a 60-70% growth in overall storage. And, with data managed by enterprise data centers forecasted to grow 50x over the next decade, it does not look like the exploding storage growth experienced in the last year will slow down any time soon. If anything, it will accelerate as the practice of storing objects increases and open APIs and design models like REST get more widely adopted. These new technologies and design practices will speed the development of more Web-based applications and the spread of composite applications combining Web-based apps with legacy applications to contribute to even more data growth.

If you are like many data center managers, you are challenged to secure budget for additional storage capacity in the current economic climate. Even with sufficient funds, without knowing the relationship between storage and business processes, there is no way to understand how storage impacts applications.

Big data growth can often mean big headaches for applications.

The challenges commonly include:

  • Limited visibility: The lack of visibility into storage workloads by application makes it difficult to spot performance and configuration issues which have a direct impact on business-critical applications. Even with some view into individual compute, network, and storage resources, there will likely be disagreements across domains regarding where the problem lies.
  • Poor performance: Without adequate information about historical usage and pending needs, data center managers struggle to optimize storage effectively to meet performance and cost objectives on a per application basis. Similarly, they are challenged to understand usage trends to make informed and timely storage purchasing decisions for the future.
  • Non-compliance: In many IT operations, service-level or internal governance agreements are in place with customers to ensure business continuity. But, with up to 50% of SAN outages caused by configuration errors undiscovered until an outage occurs, organizations operate in a reactive rather than a proactive mode when it comes to assuring compliance. Failure to meet compliance requirements can result in hefty penalties.

Suite Relief

Managing storage effectively is crucial to keeping business-critical applications available, especially if a simple configuration change could bring down applications and halt business operations.  The EMC Storage Resource Management Suite enables data center managers to identify and manage the impact that storage resources have on application availability and performance across the data center.  Use the Storage Resource Management Suite to assure optimal storage services through end-to-end analysis from application to storage all through agent-less discovery, eliminating the burden of deploying and managing host agents.  Ensure data center health while controlling the cost of exponential data growth.

The Storage Resource Management Suite combines EMC ProSphere end-to-end data path visibility, performance, and capacity analysis with EMC Storage Configuration Advisor for configuration management and EMC Watch4net for application insight and service-level analysis to deliver:

  • Insight into resources: Dynamic real-time reporting provides increased visibility into all resources and performance dependencies from application to host/server to storage array. Analyze application performance through trending and threshold notifications and correlate the results with storage metrics to better understand relationships and potential impacts. ProSphere monitors storage use by class of service, capacity used, capacity available, and type and presents the results in custom dashboards. Watch4net augments this information with intelligence gathered from data collectors polling network, storage, and server-side databases such as MySQL and Oracle.
  • Optimized service levels: Monitor and respond to service-level deviations through custom thresholds and dashboards across EMC and supported third-party storage. Analyze storage workload trends to align storage tiers to application service levels, as well as EMC FAST VP usage to meet customer-defined performance and chargeback policies by application. The Storage Resource Management Suite monitors and provides alerts on application performance across a wide-range of supported devices including third-party SAN and NAS storage, using EMC Watch4net data collectors. ProSphere agent-less discovery pulls rich data from host servers, SAN switches, and arrays to present an end-to-end view of data path performance and dependencies.  It also performs server-side analysis to provide insight into the impact of operating system version, multipathing solution, and CPU count, type, and speed on storage performance.
  • Assured compliance: Validate configurations automatically leveraging Storage Configuration Advisor and the EMC Support Matrix, which includes a wealth of EMC-tested and validated configurations, as well as customer-defined design best practices. Think of it as a preventive medicine plan that checks on the health of the data center to identify corrective actions to be taken before problems occur.

Peace of Mind in a Changing World

As data centers re-tool to deal with data growth and corresponding storage growth, software solutions such as the Storage Resource Management Suite simplify storage consumption for data center managers looking for related technologies that address challenges across not just one domain but the entire compute, network, and storage stack. Clearly, with the move to cloud computing and the notion of classes of services presented for easy consumption, software management tools have to fall in line and evolve accordingly, whether delivered as part of reference architectures, single-SKU solutions like VCE Vblocks, or software suites. The next wave in cloud computing is directionally headed to more abstractions between compute, network, and storage services and the underlying physical infrastructure (e.g. the software-defined data center). These abstractions further support the need to monitor and manage applications down to their supporting dynamic data storage to ensure optimal performance and peace of mind in a changing world.

About the Author: Mark Prahl