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Justifying SAN Investment
In spite of all of the persuasive technical reasons for implementing one, justifying a SAN investment can be a slippery slope. A SAN, like most networks, entails complexity in the form of a storage-only fabric. This is a prerequisite for bringing a SAN under centralized control and management. The turning point where this sophisticated plumbing system delivers enterprise benefits is centered on the SAN management software that reins in the intricacies of this fabric and presents its interconnected resources in a consolidated graphical view. Adding this intelligence at the network level not only enables topology visualization but also provides a platform for monitoring and configuration control. It also establishes policies for the automation of numerous tasks associated with heterogeneous SAN management.
These benefits can be pervasive in any implementation. Nevertheless, ambiguity often sets in when the time comes to analyze the potential return on such a SAN investment. IT decision makers are no longer satisfied to evaluate new SAN strategies based solely on their technical merits. Justifiably, they want assurances that a new solution will deliver quantifiable enterprise benefits. Data abounds throughout the industry enumerating the:
- Hourly costs of downtime for various types of enterprises,
- Orders of magnitude of hardware and labor cost savings, and
- Sizeable ROI achieved by certain applications.
However, the margins of error can diminish the credibility of the forecast substantially when an IT decision-making team tries to correlate these numbers with their own environments. There is a way to overcome these uncertainties -- you must use a methodology that applies a user's own data to measure the potential reductions in total cost of ownership (TCO) and the resulting ROI. "What-if" analysis can be applied to assess a range of possible outcomes by using an analytical tool. Solutions providers can then work with end users to measure TCO and ROI for a proposed environment.
SAN Management Analytical Tool Solution
The issue at hand becomes one of identifying and then measuring the incremental value that a SAN management analytical tool (SANMAT) brings to the solution. In other words, this becomes an issue when a SAN is in place or at least a decision to implement a SAN has been made. The term "SAN management analytical tool" cuts a wide swath. The layer of software that manages the SAN infrastructure is of interest here.
Managing all of the devices on the network is not as important as managing the infrastructure. So that the full value of the SAN may be exploited, you must be able to interface to the software and firmware elements. When one views the gamut of a SANMAT as a stack, it fits well into the overall enterprise framework management structure. This, of course, is based on a policy-driven management of SAN infrastructure devices and their interconnection. Below this level are virtualization and storage resource management (SRM) layers. Finally, the software/firmware inherent to storage subsystem and network devices comes into play here.
Paramount to the efficacy of a SANMAT's contribution to the enterprise, department and workgroup environments in which the SAN is deployed is interoperability and a tight coupling to the interfaces at all of these levels. A SANMAT must address the need to interface with major enterprise framework management software, and it must also provide application program interfaces (APIs) that allow external programs to access third-party information and commands available within the SAN environment. A SANMAT should seamlessly adapt to any environment, with an aggressive strategy for API plurality. This must be fully in stride or coincide with advances in all of the complementary software that comprises a sophisticated SAN management solution.