Manage changing storage needs

By David Strom Print this article Print

How can you keep your virtualized storage area network properly maintained? Try following these best practices.

Manage changing storage needs. The essence of any storage solution is how well it can adapt to changing situations, particularly its ability to handle a large influx of data or to migrate data to other volumes. The ability to dynamically provision new data volumes, make snapshot copies of volumes or remotely mirror data to a disaster recovery location are all key features.

“All our SAN volumes are virtualized using FalconStor’s IPStor NSS 6.0,” says Frank Smith, manager of corporate IT core infrastructure at Lionbridge Technologies, which is based in Waltham, Mass. “This allows us a huge amount of flexibility, so we can move volumes from one RAID drive or array to another. We don’t suffer any downtime during these migrations or when we add or remove storage.”

Part of this management task is being able to view your storage allocation and monitor its growth and needs in real time, on a single dashboard that is easy for you to follow. The ideal situation is to show what drive letters are mapped to which hosts and what disk arrays are part of each drive, as well as the characteristics of the disks for each logical storage group.

“With NetApp, we have control over the management of our storage volumes that we never had before with our EMC SAN,” says Organic Valley’s Neill. “We can over-allocate our storage volumes and dynamically reallocate them, which has dramatically reduced the time to plan and manage our volumes. Now we don’t have to shut the system down to reprovision storage, and what is even better, it all takes just seconds.”

In the past, if Organic Valley had to resize a volume with its EMC SAN, it would take the better part of a day to complete. “With NetApp, we have visibility into our application activity, and that enables us to understand what’s happening now, map trends and make intelligent plans for our future needs,” Neill explains.

Segal is using three Hewlett-Packard StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) SANs containing 30 terabytes. The company found that the HP disk virtualization worked great when migrating its Microsoft Exchange servers from dedicated storage to its SAN. “We didn’t have to pick and choose the individual disks,” Sokol says, “and we could let the EVA optimize it for us and not have to waste a lot of disk space in the process.”

Bill Hassell currently works for a financial services provider that stores terabytes of data for several thousand banks throughout the United States. “We recently transitioned from EMC Symmetrix storage to Axiom disks provided by Pillar Data Systems,” he says. “This was part of a disaster recovery project to replicate data more efficiently, as well as improve production database performance.

“Lowered cost was also a big part of the upgrade project, and that was achieved with Pillar’s help. We also needed close to real-time replication to our data recovery site because we didn’t want to upgrade the speed of the link to the site.”

One of the reasons for the change was Axiom’s simple administration when the financial services provider has to make changes to its storage needs. “With the Axiom system, we make use of a Web page and it’s more than adequate to assign LUNs [logical unit numbers] to different hosts,” Hassell explains.

“I have looked at the user interface of Fujitsu’s and EMC’s latest products, and the Axiom interface is far simpler and more intuitive. You can change the storage allocation at any time—without having to hire a consultant or learn a series of cryptic command-line parameters.” Hassell did need some significant consulting help from FalconStor, but he says it was easy to move up the learning curve with the storage management software.

An idea suggested by Gene Ruth, a senior storage analyst with the Burton Group, is to make use of quality of service to ease storage configuration management. “For example, rather than modeling the intricacies of thin provisioning or RAID sets, identify that the equipment supports specific features characterized by parameters associated with each feature,” he says.

“Why should users specify what disks go into a RAID set or what RAID level to use? Instead, users would define the level of redundancy and expected performance and let the equipment figure it out from there.”

This article was originally published on 2009-07-15
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