Simplifying Storage with SRM

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New, heterogeneous storage architectures make it easier to provide a wider set of users with access to a broader range of data. It also means that companies can adopt information lifecycle management (ILM) policies, economically assigning files to online, nearline or offline storage. At least that’s the theory.

In practice, as data stores climb into the tera- and petabyte ranges, companies can easily drown in mounting storage complexity. Just as companies needed to install network and systems management software to cope with distributed computing, so do they need storage resource management (SRM) to manage their storage.

“Without an automation tool, managing this amount of storage would be an impossible task,” says George Rodriguez, lead systems programmer for abc distributing, LLC, a catalog and online retailer headquartered in North Miami, Fla.

A Common Console

The problem of managing storage is not limited to organizations running a multi-tiered architecture. abc distributing, for example, runs a set of Unix servers as well as an IBM z/800 mainframe, but both the Unix Servers and mainframe rely on a single IBM Enterprise Storage Server 2105 Model F20 storage array with 4.3TB capacity.

But while there was a single storage array, there was no common storage interface providing a clear view into both the Unix servers and the mainframe that were using that storage. As a result, the company was running out of space, which was causing delays in the batch processing.

To gain visibility into the storage, Rodriguez started using Computer Associates’ BrightStor CA-Vantage SRM. With it, he has a common interface through which to view and manage both the Unix and mainframe storage, including monitoring the backups.

“I’ve been able to create a custom report of the ARCserve backup showing detailed information about the backup including the tape volser (tape volume serial number) the system used to place the data on tape,” he says. “This report can then be placed in a bin with the actual tapes for disaster recovery.”

It can be tough enough managing storage on a single array, but adding storage complexity adds to the complexity of management. The University of Texas Health Sciences Center, a medical research facility in Houston, splits its 8TB of primary storage between Hewlett-Packard Company EVA 5000 storage area networks and Network Appliance NAS devices. Network specialist George Pardue uses SyncSort’s Backup Express to back up the data to a StorageTek L700E tape library.

“I run a lot of backup jobs and had no way of determining at a glance whether the backup was successful,” he says. “That made it more difficult to troubleshoot when there was an issue.” Like Rodriguez, he went with an SRM, but selected Profiler RX 3.86 from Tek-Tools. The main console log-in has a color-coded screen that tells how many hosts have been backed up successfully, how many are in progress and how many failed.

“Right when I walk in, I can look at it and know if I have any problems,” he says.

The software also has utilization graphs. By clicking on a host, he can see its thirty-day history.

“It shows at a quick glance if things have changed,” he says. “Before someone could add a lot to a server and I wouldn’t know about it.”

Easing Complexity

SRM software is relatively new, and like other types of management software, early versions tended to be complex.

“A lot of the time in the past, SRM was trying to bite off too big a chunk for most to swallow,” says Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “It was too expensive and did so many things that no one could really use it.”

But that has changed with recent releases. Rodriguez says that it took him less than a day to do the initial set up on his BrightStor SRM, though it did take a bit longer to create the customized views he wanted. He uses the software to manage the z/800 storage groups defined in the system using the Web publishing scripts that come with CA-Vantage. He also uses the SRM to generate reports validating backup results.

Pardue had someone from Tek-Tools set up Profiler, but once set up, operation was no problem and keeps getting simpler.

“I found the product really easy to use,” he says. “They are constantly improving the product, the GUI keeps getting cleaner, and it is handy to have this information right here at hand.”

Article courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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