Posts Tagged ‘storage resource management’

Converged Infrastructure + Isilon: Better Together

David Noy

VP Product Management, Emerging Technologies Division at EMC

You can’t beat Isilon for simplicity, scalability, performance and savings. We’re talking  world-class scale-out NAS that stores, manages, protects and analyzes your unstructured data with a powerful platform that stays simple, no matter how large your data environment. And Dell EMC already has the #1 converged infrastructure with blocks and racks. So bringing these two superstars together into one converged system is truly a case of one plus one equals three.

This convergence—pairing Vblock/VxBlock/VxRack systems and the Technology Extension for Isilon— creates an unmatched combination that flexibly supports a wide range of workloads with ultra-high performance, multi-protocol NAS storage. And the benefits really add up, too:

As impressive as these numbers are, it all boils down to value and versatility. These converged solutions give you more value for your investment because, quite simply, they store more data for less. And their versatility allows you to optimally run both traditional and nontraditional workloads These include video surveillance, SAP/Oracle/Microsoft applications, mixed workloads that generate structured and unstructured data, Electronic Medical Records and Medical Imaging and more – on infrastructure built and supported as one product.

With a Dell EMC Converged System, you’ll see better, faster business outcomes through simpler IT across a wide range of application workloads. For more information on modernizing your data center with the industry’s broadest converged portfolio, visit emc.com/ci or call your Dell EMC representative today.

 

Learn more about Converged Infrastructure and IsilonAlso, check out the full infographic

What “Field of Dreams” Can Teach You About IT Projects and IT Operations Management

Would you think that the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” has just as much to do with IT operations as it does with baseball. Remember the backstory?field_of_dreams_poster

The movie’s protagonist, Ray Kinsella, is an average and unsuccessful farmer, with regrets about his past. Like many on an IT team who gets struck with a bolt of inspiration – an idea for an IT-related project (a new application or service, probably along the lines of “what if we had a way to…” or “what if we did this:”) – Ray listens to a voice in the night telling him “If you build it, he will come.” He proceeds to plow under his crop, and construct a baseball field in the middle of his Iowa cornfield

Then Ray’s “project” develops its own momentum – the seemingly now-corporeal ghost of Chicago White Sox outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson walks out of the cornfield bordering the newly built baseball field, admires everything, thanks Ray for what he’s done, and asks to come back – with “friends.”

Now Ray on an IT team would have had a similar experience: Someone gets wind he’s been working on a Skunk Works project that, although radical, could be something amazing. Shoeless Joe is like that first test user that becomes the unintentional evangelist, and quickly starts to build a critical mass among users.

At this stage in the IT project, things are going well: The user base has grown, the old guard (shown in the movie as 1960s anti-establishment author Thomas Mann) at first grudgingly agrees to take a look at the project, then likes what it sees, becomes a strong advocate, and things evolve quickly (maybe even moving to formal alpha testing). In the movie, Shoeless Joe has brought a throng of other now-corporeal ghosts to play baseball once again on Ray’s field (more users, all of whom love the work Ray’s done). And Ray’s wife Annie stands by her man, despite a wave of criticism coming from her brother Mark, the financial advisor and antagonist who absolutely cannot see or understand Ray’s vision, and what he’s done.

Mark personifies the non-IT finance person who absolutely cannot see any value in an IT project. The premise makes no sense. It’s not about economic optimization. Losses need to be cut and risk averted. (Sound familiar?) Even the testimonies of others can’t budge this person from his position. And without the ability to secure funding, that IT project isn’t ever going to go anywhere and become something big.

Getting past this immoveable object requires an “ah-ha” moment, where the clouds part and insight illuminates the closed-minded. For Mark, it was seeing the “project” in a context that mattered to him. (In the movie, Mark could finally see the ballplayers after one of them, Moonlight Graham, willingly chose to step off the safe environment of the field to help Ray’s daughter Karen, who had fallen from the bleachers.)

So now Ray’s IT project has its financing. It’s gone from a germ of an idea, been incubated, grown, overcome hurdles, proven, and spread among users. It’s been promoted. (Thomas confidently predicts that people will come.) In IT project terms, it’s ready to go live.

In the movie, that go-live moment is represented by Ray finally getting his reward for all his efforts: The newest player to arrive at this field is no other than his father, with whom, from a soliloquy early in the movie, Ray had significant, gnawing regret from their long, unresolved estrangement. The movie delivers its biggest tear-jerker moment when Ray, who, as a rebellious teen, steadfastly refused to throw a baseball around with his father, was now able to fix that by asking his father to have a catch.

And they did. And the credits to the movie rolled, showing a fade-to scene of miles and miles of cars driving toward Ray’s field. And you might think that would be the end of the IT analogies here as well. But it’s not.

Although the biggest IT lesson of all came from the end of the movie, it had nothing to do with Ray and his father playing catch. Just before that sequence, the most level-headed character in the movie, Ray’s wife Annie, simply and succinctly proved to be the voice of reason in one sentence: “If all these people are going to come, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Annie represents IT operations. She supported Ray’s idea (the IT project) from the beginning. (Many I’ve spoken to in IT operations say “Do we ever really have a choice of not supporting it?”) As IT operations does, she kept things running smoothly despite the chaos unfolding. And, as the voice of reason to any IT project, IT operations provides the view that starts to answer the question “What happens now that we’ve gone live?”

And Annie’s insight provides the biggest unstated IT lesson from the movie: Although the IT project and the way it unfolds is important (and makes for a good story, in this case), you can’t neglect the IT operations view of the world: Things need to happen after the go-live date to ensure IT service delivery environment (i.e., infrastructure) keeps running smoothly and performs as expected. And consider the long-term impact of what’s now changed in the environment. In IT terms, the project’s success has created a performance bottleneck in the environment (the traffic jam of people trying to get to the field). And that’s just for starters: Where will all these people eat, sleep, and bathe? And is there a wi-fi hotspot nearby?

Good IT projects can be a tremendous experience. They can overcome obstacles to create new value, change things for the better, and get people to see things in a whole new light. But a key takeaway to keep in mind is that they, like a movie, tend to have a story arc: a perceived beginning, middle, and end.

And it’s really that “end” that needs to be thought of as the beginning – the start of the usage lifecycle of that application or service. That’s when you have to address everything that needs to be done, from an IT operations monitoring and management perspective, to keep that new application or service available and performing the way it should to meet (or exceed) user expectations. And that’s exactly what EMC Service Assurance Suite and EMC ViPR SRM do – provide IT operations teams with the insights necessary to ensure that IT service delivery environment functions they way that they should, as well as the ability to easily absorb changes in the IT environment.

If I were producing this as a short movie, I’d now call out “fade to black, cut, and roll credits.” But IT operations would still keep a light on, behind the scenes, to help keep an eye on things.

Accelerating Storage ROI with Storage Resource Management

Kevin Gray

Kevin Gray

Kevin Gray

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Enterprise IT organizations are increasingly being called upon to help their companies drive revenue growth by processing and managing new data sources that increase business intelligence and enhance customer engagement. As a result, many of these organizations are experiencing data growth rates in excess of 20% to 60% per year. In addition, in order to improve efficiency, organizations are adopting virtualization and software-defined architectures that increase business agility and flexibility. By abstracting the hardware infrastructure, virtualization technology may obscure the relationships between application services and the underlying physical resources they consume. These new abstraction layers may make it difficult to optimize resources to meet service levels while controlling escalating storage costs.

While storage resource management (SRM) solutions have been around for over a decade, many enterprises are increasingly depending on SRM to gain insight into where and how capacity is being consumed. Storage resource management helps these organizations control costs as the size of their infrastructure grows. Understanding how SRM can help your business is essential to getting the most out of your investments in SRM and your storage infrastructure.

Three ways that Storage Resource Management can help you control costs are:

  1. Reducing capital investments
  2. Improving productivity
  3. Minimizing unplanned downtime and performance issues

Let’s take a closer look at these three areas in a bit more detail.

new_data
Reducing Capital Investments
Many of today’s large enterprises are managing multiple petabytes of storage with data growing 20% to 60% per year. According to Gartner estimates, the average cost per raw terabyte of enterprise storage last year was $3,212 (Source: Gartner, Inc. “IT Key Metrics Data 2014: Key Infrastructure Measures: Storage Analysis: Current Year,” December 16, 2013). This means these organizations are investing millions of dollars in new capital each year just to keep pace with data growth. Surprisingly, many of these organizations have low utilization rates and limited visibility into historical workloads that would enable more efficient storage tiering. Therefore, they end up purchasing significantly more capacity at higher prices than is needed to meet business requirements.

Storage Resource Management solutions like EMC’s ViPR SRM can help storage teams improve utilization rates by tracking storage consumption by service level to identify where, when, and what type of capacity will be required. This enables just-in-time purchasing processes to avoid over-purchasing capacity.

The capacity utilization rate is an important metric in assessing how efficiently your organization is using its existing capacity. It is the ratio between the capacity that is used vs. usable in your environment. In working with EMC customers, I’ve seen a wide range of utilization rates that span from a low of about 30% to a high of 80%. The average tends to be just over 60%, but many of our customers are at 50% or less. A utilization rate of 50% means that for every terabyte used, 2 terabytes were purchased. Increasing the utilization rate to 66% would mean that for every terabyte used 1.5 terabytes would be purchased. This equates to purchasing 25% less capacity to meet business requirements. For organizations with rapidly growing, multi-petabyte storage environments, improving utilization rates can save hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year in capital acquisitions.

SRM also allows storage teams to make more effective use of storage pools and thin provisioning. These technologies increase utilization rates by enabling storage teams to pool resources and allocate capacity on demand. SRM tracks consumption of these pools and estimates “time-to-full” to help storage teams ensure adequate capacity is always in place to meet business expectations. It also identifies over allocated pools where capacity can be reclaimed and repurposed to meet new requirements. And, it helps identify orphaned volumes or volumes and file systems with no activity that can be reclaimed and put to better use.

SRM can improve the management of a tiered storage infrastructure. Many companies have moved to tiered service offerings to help lower costs. Tier 1 storage typically uses more expensive disk drives with higher levels of replication to support data protection and performance requirements than Tier 2. SRM allows storage teams to understand historical workloads, identify replication relationships, track capacity consumed by a host, workgroup or application, and create and distribute chargeback or show-back reports that help align the cost of storage services with business objectives. This allows storage teams to better understand where Tier 2 resources can be deployed without impacting SLAs to reduce costs.

Improving Productivity
The capacity managed per storage FTE is another common benchmark used to assess how efficient your organization is at managing storage. While this value typically grows over time and varies depending upon the size of the environment, it is based on the notion that one person can only do so much. As the capacity grows, headcount must be added to support this growth assuming business as usual processes are followed.

Storage resource management can improve productivity by enabling storage teams to manage more capacity with the same resources as the size of their infrastructure grows. This avoids adding new, often hard to find, resources to support business requirements. SRM automates and simplifies common tasks like capacity, performance, and chargeback reporting, change tracking and configuration validation, performance reporting and troubleshooting. This frees up the storage team to focus on more value-added tasks like planning and delivering new storage services.

Minimizing Unplanned Downtime and Performance Issues
According to IDC, the cost of downtime for companies with more than 10,000 employees is over $1.5 million per hour (Source: IDC, “Measuring Cost of Downtime and Recovery Objectives Among US Firms,” July 2013). More difficult to assess, but clearly a problem for many organizations, is the impact of slow performance. Experience has shown that over half of SAN issues are due to configuration problems. Most organizations do their best to follow design best practices and comply with vendor support matrix recommendations. However, in environments that are growing in size and complexity, consistent adherence becomes increasingly difficult. Storage resource management solutions help reduce downtime by tracking compliance with design practices and support matrix recommendations to ensure your environment is always configured right to meet service levels. When something does go wrong, SRM can help reduce the mean time to problem identification by providing visibility into configurations, health, and performance across the data path.

So, Where Do You Start?
While there are significant benefits to be gained by adopting storage resource management, success is dependent upon understanding how people and processes will evolve when using SRM to derive these benefits. Starting off with an understanding of what you want to achieve and how SRM can help you achieve those objectives is essential to getting the most out of your investment. EMC has developed a process for working with its customers to evaluate their needs and understand how SRM and other software-defined solutions can help their customers reduce costs and develop a more agile environment. This process is called the Storage Transformation Workshop. The Storage Transformation Workshop helps customers assess their business priorities, identify potential solutions, and quantify the financial impact those solutions could have on their organization.

Storage resource management can help IT reduce costs while meeting SLAs as size and complexity grows. If you would like to find out more on how EMC ViPR SRM and software-defined storage solutions can help your organization, contact your EMC representative or click here to sign up for our upcoming webcast to learn more about our Storage Transformation Workshop.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Gayatri Aryan

Gayatri Aryan

Gayatri Aryan

Latest posts by Gayatri Aryan (see all)

You know the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, well it’s true and even more so in highly virtualized environments.  Simply put, the ViPR SRM topology maps are just that.  The topology maps give you a pictorial depiction of an end-to-end relationship to provide storage administrators with the visibility they need to manage a complex, heterogeneous storage environment.  Consider a host for example, the topology map for which, in a single view, gives you an ability to traverse from the host, to its ports, to the fabric(s) it is connected to, all the way to the storage system.

Ayran_Image_1

There is more to this picture though.  It really becomes a navigation tool with the association of categories (outlined in red above).   Upon selection of the host, what is presented on the right hand side is the list of reports available for that device type (in this case the host).  As you select a different object (switch or array for example), a list of reports available for that device will be made available.  In essence, you get an ability to stay in the context of the object you started with while poking around the connected devices.

Everything mentioned above has been in ViPR SRM since the 3.0 release timeframe.  There have been enhancements made to the topology maps with ViPR SRM 3.5.1 that take topology maps to the next level.   For example, we introduced the concept of “map types”.  What we had until ViPR SRM 3.5 was the default view which is shown above – a physical connectivity view filtered by logical connectivity (masking views).  Starting with ViPR SRM 3.5.1, we have added two additional map types: Masked Storage Systems and Masked Storage Systems with Replicas.

The Masked Storage Systems – built upon only masking views is useful when only interested in provisioned storage.  An example of this view is shown below.

Aryan_Image_2

Masked Storage Systems with Replicas is built upon the Masking View and adds replicas as shown below.

Aryan_Image_3

In addition to having multiple perspectives for the topology map, we have also introduced some overlays.  For instance, if there are alerts on a given device (severe or high), an indicator would be shown on top of that device indicating as such.  In order to not clutter the topology map though, this indicator will be shown only if there is a severe or high alert for the device.   An example of the alert indicators is shown below.

Aryan_Image_4

Tooltips have gotten richer as well.  For example, hovering over the host icon, you would see some attributes for the host and a spark line for its CPU utilization as highlighted in red in the diagram below.  This provides storage admins with the ability to quickly scan the entire storage environment, hover over any alerts and be advised of any conditions that may require further attention or escalation.

Aryan_Image_5

For an array, you would see the aggregated port IOPs in addition to some vendor information as highlighted below in red, again enabling storage admins to quickly identify, isolate, and correct any issues that may be affecting performance or availability.

Aryan_Image_6

The ViPR SRM topology maps have been designed in a very deliberate effort to not clutter the topology map, instead offering the option to view the add-ons as needed.

In addition to the topology map enhancements, ViPR SRM 3.5.1 delivered new platform support for ScaleIO via a new ScaleIO SolutionPack, expanded visibility and reporting for HP 3PAR and IBM SVC environments.  The MySQL SolutionPack which was previously an add-on option is now included at no additional charge.

You can learn more about ViPR SRM by visiting our online community and/or registering for one of our Rethink Storage webcasts (live or on-demand).

We hope you agree that these product improvements proves our above assertion that a picture really is worth a thousand words!

What ViPR SRM Can Show You About a VPLEX Environment

Gary Roberts

Gary Roberts

Gary Roberts

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VPLEX is EMC’s premier storage virtualization solution. While VPLEX greatly simplifies everyday storage management, storage virtualization has presented storage administrators with new challenges in areas such as reporting, performance troubleshooting and chargeback. In ViPR SRM, new capabilities enable you to peer under the virtualization layer to understand what’s actually going on in a virtualized environment. In a VPLEX environment, ViPR SRM enables a storage administrator to understand how storage capacity is being used, and who is using it to understand end-to-end relationships from host to storage and to verify that VPLEX is configured according to best practices.

For example, a challenge for a storage administrator is to understand, overall, how storage is being used – how much for traditional block or file, how much is virtualized, how much is free, and so forth. New to ViPR SRM, a unified enterprise capacity dashboard shows total storage capacity for the environment in one place, and how it is used. The dashboard includes a view of usable capacity (top middle view), with a bar indicating how much is used for virtual storage. Note that the virtual storage is actually based on physical block storage; so ViPR SRM carefully ensures that this block storage is not counted twice in the enterprise dashboard.

GR_Image_1

Many problems in storage reporting and management require correlating the end-to-end relationships between host, SAN, and storage. Storage virtualization makes this correlation much more difficult. In a traditional non-virtual environment, a LUN on a physical array is presented directly to the host (or, in the case of VMware, to the ESX server). VPLEX, in contrast, presents to the host a virtual volume that has several layers of indirection between it and the array LUN. These layers could include such factors as clustering or partitioning of the array LUNs to provide the actual storage behind the virtual volume.

GR_Image_2

ViPR SRM has added the ability to “reverse engineer” these intermediate layers and correctly map host devices to array storage LUNs. One case where this ability is essential is chargeback. In order to allocate storage costs correctly among business units and applications, the storage administrator must determine how much storage, and what storage service level, is being used by each production host. Service levels are typically determined at the LUN level, based on the actual physical disk types used by the LUN; so ViPR SRM’s ability to map virtual volumes to LUNs enables accurate chargeback in a VPLEX environment.

Another place where the storage administrator needs to understand end-to-end relationships is performance troubleshooting. Performance problems exhibited by an application can sometimes be caused by a bottleneck in the SAN or array. The storage administrator will need to trace the host dependencies back through the virtualization layer through the SAN to the physical storage. In order to show those physical links and dependencies, ViPR SRM incorporates VPLEX into the topology views for hosts, VMs and arrays, as well as the VPLEX-specific views.

GR_Image_3

Because topologies can fan out rapidly and become very complex, ViPR SRM also provides the more focused Path Details views. In these, the user can trace back from a host device or datastore all the way to the storage LUN. In ViPR SRM, the user can now do this even with an intermediate VPLEX layer. Path Details will show all the intermediate VPLEX constructs, such as storage LUNs, groups and extents in the path from the host to the array.

When you pair this with ViPR SRM’s ability to trace relationships within VMware, this can be a very powerful tool for troubleshooting performance, and other uses that require understanding logical to physical dependencies. For example, in the table below, we can map a device in a virtual machine via the datastore and ESX host device, directly to the associated VPLEX storage LUN; and from there to two VPLEX extents, which physically reside on two LUNs in two distinct VNX systems.

GR_Image_4

Of course, ViPR SRM allows you to closely examine a specific VPLEX system, in addition to the end-to-end and enterprise views described previously. In ViPR SRM, topology and path details can be viewed in the context of the individual VPLEX system.

GR_Image_5

In short, ViPR SRM’s ability to peel back virtualization layers, and correlate hosts, switches and physical storage, make it a very powerful tool for the storage administrator in modern storage environments.

Watch this on-demand webcast to learn about ViPR SRM for VPLEX environments.

Zero Growth Storage: Coming to Your MBOs Soon

I heard an interesting comment the other day from a Product Management friend of mine. He was talking about a recent customer briefing he was giving where the customer’s main goal was zero growth storage. That may sound like an odd goal given that we have all seen the leading analysts’ charts on data growth: up and to the right! So it seems counter intuitive that you would be able to hold storage growth flat. That was my initial reaction, but then I started thinking, “Well, how would you go about doing that?”

I admit there was Corona involved as I pondered this more, but really given the stuff that we as an industry have accomplished, we should be able to at least come close right? I mean if my local golf course can send me a text offering to book me a tee time in the next 45 min because it’s slow right now, we should be able to figure out where the under/over-utilized storage devices are in our environment without resorting to spreadsheets and tiger teams.

zero_growth

The problem has been that every vendor has its own product, and to get it to talk to anyone else’s product always costs more money. Either some extra hardware (controllers, or the like) or some long, expensive professional services engagement that seems designed to provide the vendor’s people with long term employment security rather than you and your team. Most times the solution is to do a straight data dump from the vendor array (SMI-S or similar), and then provide you with some CLI to develop scripts that will present that data to you in a form you can actually use.

This last step is often times the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Scripting requires maintenance every time you upgrade arrays or add arrays from different vendors. It just becomes unwieldy, and something that is managed sporadically (i.e. only in an emergency), and often the knowledge resides with one person (I hope Bob is in today!). This makes it tough to really trust that you have accurate visibility into your storage infrastructure to support a zero growth goal. Add in the complexity of a virtualized environment and it become even more difficult to understand which hosts/VMs are using what storage, if they have been allocated too much, etc. You get the idea.

In the latest release of ViPR SRM (3.5) you will notice that we have added support for many heterogeneous storage arrays. While that is not dramatically different from other vendors, we have Solution Packs that automatically give you the information you need to understand with regard to the different devices in your environment (switches, hosts and storage arrays) such as configuration details, capacity, performance, relationship dependencies, etc. Think of the time savings involved, just from script maintenance! Plus with this level of visibility at your fingertips, you can work on making sure you’re meeting your customers’ service levels.

So, whether or not your main goal is zero growth storage, or just to keep storage costs in some sort of predictable range, your first step should be to get a good storage resource management tool. They have come a long way since a few years ago…some of them anyway! But don’t just take my word for it. Check out the ViPR SRM community and see what users and experts with first hand experience are saying.

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