SRM Merges With Virtualization To Give Customers Real Business Value
As SRM (storage resource management) functions creep into virtualization solutions, VARs may want to ease customers into the technology to alleviate growing pains.
The pain in storage costs today isn't hardware. Hardware costs are plummeting. The real pain in storage costs is coming from the cost of managing the storage that is installed.
Consider where storage administrators spend their time. More than 50% of their time is usually spent hunting for or adding disk space. These tasks become time consuming for a number of reasons:
- The storage administrator must validate that the data or application is authorized to get the disk space it needs/wants.
- The storage administrator must find an array with unassigned space that can be carved into a logical disk of the required size. Oftentimes the administrator must migrate files to other disks to get the space necessary to fulfill the request.
- Finally, once a logical disk is created, the storage administrator must ensure it is configured and zoned correctly, connected to the right servers, and added to the right type of backup and recovery application.
While these may appear to be innocuous tasks, a minor slip in the process can have catastrophic results. Mistakes made in configuration and zoning can result in lost data. Storage administrators are under tremendous pressure to respond to storage requests as rapidly as possible, which increases the likelihood of an error.
Virtualization Brings SRM
Storage virtualization is a technology that can alleviate the storage administrator's dilemma. There are two main objectives of virtualization. The first is to simplify the process of creating/deleting and altering storage pools and the physical resources backing them. This allows administrators to better manage the large pools of storage they have created. The second is to differentiate between classes of service so that mission-critical applications are correctly allocated their required share of resources.
Notice how the latter of the two sounds more like storage resource management (SRM) than virtualization. There is a reason for this. Many virtualization tools are now able to perform provisioning, formerly a task performed by SRM tools. Provisioning automates the process of logical disk creation, zoning, and application recognition of additional resources. Virtualization packages are rapidly integrating SRM functions into them, and SRM solutions are picking up functions that had previously been built into virtualization packages.
If storage virtualization helps administrators accomplish many of their toughest tasks, then why is virtualization not more widely deployed? There are a few reasons. The first explanation focuses on availability. "What if" scenarios about failing virtualization engines spring to mind. Many IT administrators have also inherited disk farms and had to battle with the issue of virtualization inoperability. There are also questions about business continuance and how to differentiate classes of service. On top of all that, I suspect most storage administrators are already so overburdened that the prospect of implementing a large-scale virtualization process seems ludicrous.
Don't Sell Everything At Once
To help the overburdened administrator achieve the benefits of virtualization, VARs may need to lead them into the solution via smaller, more manageable steps. This plan would still achieve 80% to 90% of the benefit. One way to accomplish this would be to focus on provisioning.
Service level objectives have been the vehicle for expressing application and IT needs, and now is the time for organizations to point to storage-related, service-level objectives. The sophistication and intelligence of the storage solutions being built today are still inadequate to give unlimited service and resources to every application. However, there are industry efforts emerging to simplify this process of storage resource allocation. One technology that has emerged is application-centric storage management, which is meant to help storage administrators make those decisions. Application-centric storage management is a tool that will help VARs lay the foundation for virtualization.
By implementing application-centric storage management, companies can optimize storage resources by understanding the relationship between the application and the storage resource layer. Such detailed storage resource information allows heavily accessed information to receive sufficient network resources and optimal placement on disk. This approach gives IT managers a solution for management of all their data.