Hiding the Storage Plumbing Page 2


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Black Box Storage

CA's Gupta attempted to define what it would take to simplify storage architectures, management, and usage. He laid out seven aspects to turn storage into a "black box" utility:

  • Create Self-Describing Storage Objects – This simplifies administration by allowing devices to be managed based upon classes and subclasses. Object types would include controllers, the devices or volumes, the fabric elements, file system objects, and block objects.

  • Establish Class-Centric Policies – Policies that govern the storage QoS (Quality of Service), including where something is stored, the transport characteristics, the availability level, security attributes, and accessibility. The policies also control aspects such as backup, restoration, and replication.

  • Improve Storage Security – Since most storage is now networked, this exposes it to new types of vulnerabilities. Most security solutions are system-centric, so administrators need to establish ones that are network-centric. Companies should use the new Advanced Encryption Standards (AES), such as the Rijndael algorithm adopted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

  • Standards and Instrumentation – This includes the Storage Networking Industry Association's Storage Management Initiative Standard (SMI-S), which is designed as a bridge between the storage devices and the management tools.

  • Virtualization – Separating out logical storage from the physical devices it resides on.

  • Automation – Some vendors already support automated provisioning, but configuration, self-healing, and recovery also need to be included.

  • Single Point of Management – It does no good to have separate management interfaces for each different vendor. Standardizing object classes will make it easier to unify the monitoring and management of heterogeneous devices.

Okay, so all these aspects look fine on paper, but how does it all translate into in the data center? Essentially, what it represents is a shift of attention away from hardware limitations and peculiarities, and onto servicing business needs. Instead of having to worry about the nuts and bolts of which partition of which disk in which array holds some bit of data, and how to link that data with the right application or user, the IT staff are free to establish and maintain storage policies that meet the organization's goals.

Sure, they will still be able to drill down into all these details as needed, but generally speaking, the management software now handles all the minutiae, not the staff. It also means you are no longer locked into a particular vendor since the products operate on common standards. As easily as you flick a light switch or turn the car's ignition key, the system works without you having to know how or why.

So will we ever reach that point? There's no question that numerous details still need resolution, but we have standardized everything from CD formats to shoe sizes — there's no reason we can't achieve the same with storage.

Feature courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet.

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