While companies vary greatly in their approach to storage management, out of necessity, most have some formal policies in this regard. Today’s disks are large and relatively inexpensive. But at any given time there is a finite amount of space to be had. Unlike electricity and bits from the Internet, network storage is not renewed over time.
The challenge is to figure out how to avoid running out of resource (capacity, performance, protection) on a day-to-day basis, and provide the user community with a consistent, cost-effective level of service.
Storage management is just one of the many aspects of IT operations management. As such, it’s subject to the same conditions that are involved in the other areas of systems management:
- Providing cost-effective and reliable service
- Monitoring performance and maintaining control
- Allocating cost
Providing a Service
The first thing to realize is that the storage on your network is not an object, but a service: short- and long-term business object storage and retrieval. Once you see storage as a service rather than an object, it’s easier and more obvious to understand that provisioning (purchasing disk drives and adding them to the network) is just one aspect — and the easiest part — of storage management.
Delivering a guaranteed, uniform level of service over time, and doing so cost-effectively, are the harder aspects of storage management. We need a standard of performance and the ability to measure delivery.
To offer any committed level of service over time, we also need to ensure that the actions of one user cannot interfere with the entitlement of another. We need the ability to control the amount of storage usage and the manner in which storage resources are used.
As with most of the network, storage is a shared resource, used by many people at the same time. If someone hogs it all, others are denied. If some are denied, the committed level of service is not met.
In well-managed IT shops today, formal Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) are common. Just as users should expect SLAs for application availability and response time, SLAs for information storage, retention, and retrieval time are perfectly appropriate.
But before you put yourself on the hook for a committed level of service, you need to establish some sort of control mechanism. It’s a fool’s exercise to be held responsible for results without being able to exert some control over the process by which those results are obtained. Without a measure of control, your success is entirely in the hands of others whose interests are not the same as yours. Your success becomes, at best, a random event.
Competent IT operations management includes the ability to tell users and senior management alike where their money is being spent. In an open market, no one buys services without a sense of the cost and an ability to track it. This common-sense rule is not suspended simply because services are provided internally. To do the storage management job well, we need to be able to track costs and assign them where they belong.
The right storage management software provides tremendous time savings and allows the organization to focus its efforts at a higher level. Rather than spend time manually deleting files and hassling users to do the same, the empowered systems management staff can devote their attention to planning for growth and managing costs.
What Do We Need To Manage?
- Quantity — how much of the resource a user or group of users consume
- Content — what users put into the storage they consume, and where they put it
- Concurrency and performance — how many customers you serve at one point and to what standard of performance
What Else Do We Need?
Effective storage management technology lets administrators do more, save money, anticipate future needs, and eliminate the risk of unexpectedly running out of space —thereby harming everyone’s productivity.
To accomplish these goals, good storage management software provides the following functions:
- Storage limits on users and groups of users
- Limits on the size of shared objects
- Control over what can be written to servers and/or desktop machines
- A user-friendly mechanism for giving status and enforcing limits
- Real-time monitoring and alerts
- A consolidated, enterprise-wide view of storage policies that are currently in force
Three key points to keep in mind going forward:
- Recognize that you need a clear Storage Management Policy, not just storage hardware and management software.
- Understand that you need buy-in from all parts of the organization to be successful in implementing SRM.
- Use proven techniques to set up your Storage Management Policy.