January 22, 2015
By Wade Hoffman
Modern enterprises can leverage their data storage infrastructures to create tremendous business value through the timely and flexible transition of that data into actionable information. Traditionally, obstacles such as high costs, slow deployments or poor service levels have prevented the transition from big data to actionable insights. However, an effective storage resource and infrastructure performance monitoring and management strategy can simplify the process.
Understanding the Issues in a Storage Network Environment
There are some common issues that arise in typical storage network environments, many of which result from a lack of complete visibility into the end-to-end data path and create a perception of data storage growth or skewed performance status. Database administrators typically have surface-level visibility only, which shows application response time and the database query path. The vendor-provided tools used by storage area network (SAN) administrators tend to limit visibility into the input/output counts and storage capacity utilization status. Ultimately, without an end-to-end view of the complete business application data path, these limited traditional views can create costly and skewed assumptions.
Problems That Occur Outside of What’s Shown in Traditional Views
So what parts of the system do these traditional views not show that can cause problems for IT teams? The limited visibility fails to capture everything from hot application ports, inefficient utilization of interswitch links (ISLs), dirty fiber and bad port interface modules, which can create the perception that capacity is running out. Even a query that was tested and validated upon production rollout could be creating a performance and resource drain due to an unseen change in the data demographics or indices. The system inconsistencies and non-integrated administrative views that the respective component vendors provide can make finding potential system impacts costly and time-consuming.
Proactively Addressing Issues With Strategies and Processes for Improved Visibility
To achieve business application success, enterprises must develop effective management strategies, process definition, ownership and comprehensive tool selection – elements that allow IT management teams to deliver greatly improved service levels and performance while achieving greater clarity around true additional data capacity requirements. In some cases, enterprises can defer additional spending or eliminate it altogether. Perhaps the most welcome benefit is that in the event of a failure, rather than managing finger-pointing by staff members or vendors, comprehensive processes and tools will help to clearly identify problem ownership and the likely root-cause, and allow your team to get to a resolution much faster.
So how do enterprises implement the strategies and processes necessary for holistic visibility? An effective management approach includes solutions to monitor, manage and report against the overall application data path from the server all the way to the target logical unit number (LUN). Having an unbiased end-to-end view is critical to creating an accurate and real-time view of the true application and storage network environments. This singular, complete view can be used to improve the integration, performance and management of the storage, storage network and application server components. Insight of the data path element-by-element enables a more efficient determination of emergent issues and root causes of performance problems.
Using the Data to Gain True Business Insights
The phrase, “average data, average decisions,” is highly applicable in database and SAN environments with sizable transactional and data volumes. It is critically important that the system data captured be at the atomic protocol level, not sampled or proprietary, for truly accurate reporting and the ability to perform additional analysis. Through better knowledge and management of SAN environments, IT administration teams can often defer large expenses in storage system upgrade or replacement purchases. They can also drive greater utilization against their existing assets.
While one system management tool is rarely sufficient in supporting a heterogeneous technology environment, it is obviously preferred to effectively minimize the management interfaces and data sources. This consolidates data correlation efforts, minimizes expenses in software and maintenance and also provides better accuracy. Singular management solutions such as Virtual Instruments’ VirtualWisdom infrastructure performance management (IPM) platform provide many of the desired SAN management characteristics mentioned above, including holistic infrastructure performance management across the entire virtualized environment.
Comprehensive storage resource management platforms provide real-time SAN monitoring and analysis regardless of the delivery architecture: physical, virtual or private cloud computing environments. That real-time information allows the SAN and database administrators to optimize performance, utilization and availability of both the storage and networking platforms as well as the application database queries. For today’s data demands in support of high-transaction and complex computing solutions, designing and budgeting the solution accurately is crucial. Having comprehensive views and analytics for the application workloads and SAN health can make a significant difference in the accuracy of the go-forward design, sizing and budgeting.
Storage area networks will continue to rapidly expand in capacity, performance demands and interoperability. That trend will challenge IT teams and management in how to respond to the business demands of application and data delivery. Successful enterprises will implement strategies to meet those demands by creating an end-to-end data path view, gathering detail versus sampled or summarized data, and leveraging data at the protocol level to support heterogeneous components. Finally, developing and defining a management strategy and process that integrates each of the IT organizations involved in the application delivery to the organization is crucial. That team approach will create a collaborative partnership toward lower operational costs, rapid deployments and surpassed service levels in support of a growing and successful business.
Wade Hoffman is the chief technology officer and vice president of business development for EarthBend, a technology solution provider that specializes in aligning IT and business needs with a full suite of professional and managed service offerings.
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