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As storage environments become more spread out, more organizations are becoming willing to invest in remote monitoring services to manage those environments.
While early still, this is no small shift, since in the past, users were reluctant to recognize the value of remote monitoring and management (RMM) services for storage, and have been resistant to the idea of storage services in general.
But with storage environments becoming more complex, and the need for new services such as remote replication and disaster recovery growing, industry officials say users are warming up to the idea of outsourcing their remote storage management operations.
"As data management grows increasingly complex, organizations will, out of necessity, look for ways of easing the burden of management," says Stephen Harding, director of marketing at Tek-Tools. "RMM and other storage services are logical industry developments to address this need and will grow increasingly more crucial."
Mehran Hadipour, vice president of marketing at Kashya, says RMM service providers have security and cost advantages over earlier generations of storage service providers.
Storage technologies such as intelligent Fibre Channel switches and fabric-based applications allow a data replication infrastructure that uses shared IP networks to replicate data from multiple customers safely and efficiently to a single data center over a common infrastructure, Hadipour says.
"The service provider can manage all of the components centrally, which produces the economy of scale and reduces the cost for the shared offering to a level that mid-size companies can now afford replication-based solutions through a shared service," says Hadipour.
Growing awareness of disaster recovery needs is also driving the trend in favor of RMM service providers, whose ranks include Cisco, MSI Managed Storage, Storage ASP and StorageWatch. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, recommends that local and replicated sites be at least 300 miles apart.
"There is a definite strategic push that many companies have for a distributed data infrastructure to allow better protection against regional failures and disasters," says Hadipour. "RMM will have the potential to drive staff consolidations by providing centralized management while maintaining the distributed data infrastructure."
Survey Shows RMM Interest Growing
In 2004, Gartner conducted a survey titled "Storage Services User Wants and Needs," which found that more than 38 percent of those surveyed indicated some level of interest in RMM.
RMM service providers tout their ability to increase availability, improve efficiency and reduce deployment risks through infrastructure monitoring and change management processes and methodology, all while saving customers the cost of adding new hires.
"With storage growing so fast, and the need for data protection pushing storage across sites, RMM is not a luxury, it is a necessity," says Hadipour.
Hadipour says that with new technologies that deliver networked-based storage functionality, new value-added functions can migrate to the SAN, bringing a new level of scalability and functionality to heterogeneous storage management. Some networked data replication platforms can bridge SANs across a wide area network while keeping management centralized, minimizing the complexity of data management.
The Functional Categories of RMM
The services provided by RMM fall into three functional categories: monitoring, automated operations, and active administration of storage devices and processes. How can these functionalities help end users better manage their storage?
According to John Lallier, vice president of technology at FalconStor, monitoring and active administration let enterprises centralize the oversight of a large number of distributed storage systems in a single operations center.
"But without automated operations, this would simply be concentrating the people required to manage these systems," says Lallier. Automated operations rely on intelligent systems using policy-based management to reduce the number of people required to monitor and manage a large number of systems, making it practical to turn these types of operations over to service providers.
"Administration is often the most technically complex task when heterogeneous storage is involved," says Hadipour. "Monitoring, on the other hand, is more of a 'know' commodity and can be integrated with server and network management solutions."
Harding says that at its most basic, RMM helps with efficiency and convenience. "As networking, resource management, and storage continue to grow exponentially, IT departments are stretched thin," he says. "RMM offers a cost-effective solution to stretched resources."
RMM also facilitates troubleshooting and problem-solving by pinpointing problems and speeding resolution through automation and active management to prevent and reduce outages, Harding says. The monitoring component of RMM translates into easy reporting that is useful in making business and infrastructure decisions, he says.