That's why it's vital that storage management is a key component of systems management
All analysts are predicting storage area networks (Sans) will be deployed by 70 per cent of all mid-to-large sized companies by 2002. As data continues along a phenomenal growth curve of 60 per cent per year in traditional business, and up to 100 per cent per year in e-business, sans are expected to be in a position to help to ease management of all the data and the storage capacity required to hold that data. They will enable companies to share and manage technology resources (application servers, storage subsystems, networking hardware, software) to provide the transparent access to information 'any time, anywhere', independent of vendor systems and software applications. Well, that's the theory anyway.
Robin Pilcher, EMEA marketing manager for storage management, Tivoli Systems, says: 'Storage management is not just about recovering information. It's about reducing costly inefficiencies, and eliminating business application outages. It's about making efficient use of a company's storage resources, and expensive processor cycles, which drive business applications. It's about ensuring those applications are kept fed with information.'
While storage management can be seen to be integral to the system management model, storage management will be a major subset of this, which can, and will, operate in its own right. The requirement for continuous system availability emphasises the need to protect all information relevant to the business. If data is lost, the business is at risk. As we move into the e-commerce arena, it's expected information will have to be available constantly. Systems management will give operational management a view of the status across the various components of a system - including storage.
'Functions that will be included in the storage management arena will include san management,' says Hamish Macarthur, managing director of storage research firm Macarthur Stroud International. 'Also backup and retrieval processes within a zero backup window, retrieval processes minimising system downtime, sharing data between application environments, remote management of storage resources across the enterprise, and virtualisation of all storage resources.'
For example, the SAN integrated technology initiative Saniti, announced last year, added SAN management facilities to Computer Associates' (CA) Unicenter product.
Ron Riffe, who is responsible for Tivoli's storage strategy and business development, says: 'A lot of value is given to end-customers by having storage and systems management integrated. We have a three-pronged approach. Tivoli Global Enterprise Manager GEM sits above all systems management in the network. Network management looks after lans and wans. There's Tivoli manager for SAP, Notes, and other applications. Agents look after individual computer systems. Each of these creates alerts to handle configuration details.
'GEM sits above everything, and allows you to define an application - take retail ordering, for example - as regards SQL, Informix, or other databases, and wan links, etc. It correlates all the information from alerts generated, from lan links down. If a fault occurs, the system will inform the user that retail ordering was not functioning,' says Riffe.
'Storage management integrates what's below - the SAN links, disk, and tape systems - and percolates information up to the application level. It will tell the business manager that he's just lost a SAN switch, and hence lost retail ordering,' says Riffe. 'There's the ability to look at the retail ordering system, consolidate backups of all database data that make up the application, and backup the application. Previously users couldn't do this - you had to look at individual components.
'The third area is to build management capabilities on top of sans - managing removable media, disks, the SAN itself, use of the SAN for data sharing, and backup,' says Riffe. 'The application of storage is the application.
'GEM provides a common view of storage management,' says Riffe. 'It creates value, in being able to manage a business better.
Another facet is the idea of storage management built off a framework. Tivoli's framework allows all products to plug into it, plus it allows partners to plug in too. The Tivoli Ready programme has hundreds of partners.
There's integration of individual functions into Tivoli storage manager, such as Tivoli decision support, which is a reporting tool to help managers make more important decisions. Storage products can be integrated with decision support, and managers can make intelligent decisions about backing up.
Riffe explains: 'Tivoli event console, part of storage manager, collects alerts and operational information from the rest of the system management pieces, correlates alerts, and provides meaningful information. Say a LAN hub is no longer working, and the application is not running well - this data will be correlated. All storage pieces are integrated - SAN , management and backup pieces all flow into the event console.
'Tivoli service desk is a help desk function,' says Riffe. 'Say a user loses a file. Is there a backup? Interacting with storage manager and service desk, allows the help desk person to recover the file.
'There's also a series of products - Tivoli manager for x, where x is SAP, Notes, etc. This manages performance, configuration, operational alerts etc, and ensures SAP has all the relevant facts for operating. Equally there's Tivoli data protection for x, which manages backups, disaster recovery, and business continuity,' says Riffe. 'Value is delivered to the customer from overall management, and total cost of ownership.'
Geoff Norman, research associate at IT market watcher Xephon, is more cautious: 'San management is a complex series of software functions. It needs to add the broader aspects of storage management to the control of individual storage subsystems. The lack of vision shown by most vendors in this field restricts SAN benefits to relatively narrow hardware-dependent attributes for some years: single-server-to-multiple-storage-device connection, off-line backups, and off-line data propagation between applications server environments. As usual, hardware is ahead of software.'