Storage Virtualization - 5 Best Practices to Consider - Part Two

Posted by Mark Teter, Chief Technology Officer
June 26, 2011

In our first blog on storage virtualization best practices, we discussed how companies struggle today to establish effective policies for managing their data centers and computing IT assets most efficiently and how storage virtualization can help reduce costs and minimize downtime. The first two best practices were 1) making sure you set scope and objectives in advance, and 2) arranging for proper staff training.

This blog covers the remaining 3 storage virtualization best practices.

3.  Leverage Storage Resource Management (SRM)

As organizations adopt storage and server virtualization technology strategies, they discover that monitoring, reporting, and managing such an environment actually increases the complexities of some storage management activities.

Measuring storage performance has always been difficult for IT departments, and the job has become even more challenging with storage virtualization. Unfortunately, traditional data storage management solutions no longer span the entire data path, from application to storage. But storage administrators require deeper visibility of the entire path from virtualized servers to the virtual storage as well as the ability to map the virtual storage to the physical storage devices. Few have the tools to correlate the outage of a back-end storage array LUN that sits behind a storage virtualization appliance to its potential impact on a business application.

Proper SRM solutions, especially performance and capacity management tools, provide the ability to manage heterogeneous physical and virtual storage environments. When properly instrumented, SRM tools provide full discovery and visibility, end-to-end resource mapping, monitoring, alerting, and reporting of virtual, logical and physical storage.

4.  Establish storage management standards

When you establish storage management standards—including standard LUN sizes and naming conventions—you can more easily interchange similar storage subsystems, reducing complicated planning exercises. Standard configurations simplify both production environment planning and disaster recovery site recovery planning. This includes using standard storage device configurations, sensible names for zoning and zone configuration, and appropriate naming conventions for LUN creation and presentation. If possible, use some sort of identifier for the logical and physical name for a device so staff can quickly locate the physical site of a particular device.

Although you’ll experience some storage waste by moving to standard configurations, you will also save storage management costs. With standards, you can attach any server to any storage and capacity will grow based on generic configurations and standard naming conventions. As data growth occurs in this environment, you can easily manage the standard configuration. Simplification of configurations helps to reduce the storage management costs associated with managing multiple-site configurations. Storage administrators at any site understand the storage environment, which helps them address planned and unplanned downtime management activities.

Naturally, you will still have exceptions and special cases. However, when you shift your focus to the Total Cost of Ownership for the storage environment, you can manage these special cases as exceptions rather than the rule.

5.  Implement service maintenance best practices

Storage virtualization can extend the working life of your current storage investment. However, much of the investment still needs proper maintenance and support contracts, and companies are often uncertain what assets they should replace due to their high support costs.

By providing a unified picture of actual support spending across all business applications, organizations can accurately calculate the capital and operational expenses with each application as well as the underlying application environment. This information aids budget-planning purposes and establishes proper budget and expense controls.

Additionally, you should be able to view this information from a single dashboard so corporate decision makers can see relevant maintenance and support documentation. With support contract information online, you can easily export it into other data formats such as MS Excel, PDF and XML—simplifying collaboration with peers and management teams. You will also want to view individual support contracts with detailed information comparing inventory support coverage across all manufacturers using generalized levels.

Companies will also want to view individual equipment expiration dates. Without advanced notice of pending contract expirations, along with details on connected software products, organizations will find it difficult to conduct financial analysis. When you have access to current and clear support and maintenance information, you can effectively produce a cost analysis for the support of renew versus asset/replacement decision.

And of course, properly managing any application environment requires proactively management of the underlying hardware and software infrastructure. Be sure to link hardware and software resources to reveal connections between software licensed to specific application environments.

We’d love to hear your storage virtualization best practices. Please share your thoughts and insights.

About Mark Teter Before he retired from ASG in 2013, Mark Teter was Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the author of 'Paradigm Shift: Seven Keys of Highly successful Linux and Open Source Adoptions.' As CTO, Mark regularly advised IT organizations, vendors, and government agencies, and he frequently conducted seminars and training programs.

Filed Under: Virtualization

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