Today’s enterprise data centers typically span multiple locations and include a collection of storage products from various vendors. There’s likely a combination of storage types and storage media, including Storage Area Networks (SANs) and Network Attached Storage (NAS), each filled with an assortment of Solid State Disks (SSDs) and Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). Tape archive storage is probably also in the mix. IT managers face an ongoing challenge getting everything to play nicely together while still providing data protection and high-performance information access. To manage virtualized cloud environments within today’s IT budgets requires efficient, feature-rich, multi-platform storage management tools.

Requirements for Multi-Platform Storage Management

What capabilities matter in a comprehensive multi-platform storage strategy? You can reduce complexity, improve efficiency, and drive down costs by:

• Having a common management platform across heterogeneous storage types; this provides a consistent way to administer storage-related services.
• Introducing a storage hypervisor that isolates the storage hardware from the services running on the hypervisor so storage resources can be pooled and shared (i.e., virtualized) in and across data centers.
• Implementing a solution for unified backup and recovery that supports data protection and recovery across the storage infrastructure.

Common Management Platform

Centralized management lets storage administrators easily perform storage management functions (such as thin provisioning, snapshots, deduplication, storage tiering, and data migration) from a single interface across a wide range of storage infrastructure, including NAS and SAN as well as multi-vendor storage. By providing consistent management, storage administrators can perform the same tasks in the same way, regardless of the underlying hardware. This lets the administrator be more efficient, performing more storage-related tasks in less time. Some storage management products automate these tasks based on pre-set policy thresholds or “self-learning” algorithms that study data access patterns and perform functions automatically based on history. Examples of storage management software include EMC Unisphere, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) and IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center (VSC), and HP Storage Resource Manager.

Storage Hypervisor

The storage hypervisor is a way to virtualize storage similarly to how many businesses virtualize physical servers today. A server hypervisor is code that sits between the operating environment and underlying hardware and creates multiple operating environment images (virtual machine images) the hardware then processes. Server hypervisors improve utilization by letting multiple virtual machines share computing resources, enhance efficiency, simplify administration, and provide the foundation for on-demand provisioning.

Storage hypervisors provide many of the same benefits such as pooled physical resources, mobility of virtual volumes, independence from underlying hardware, and centralized management; this translates into savings on storage and storage management. A 2012 IBM Data Center study revealed 93 percent of the most efficient data centers use storage virtualization; in the least efficient, only 21 percent use storage virtualization. IBM, Virsto, and DataCore market and sell storage hypervisors.

Unified Backup and Recovery

A 2012 Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) survey identified “improve data back-up and recovery” as the top IT priority for 2012. An effective backup/recovery solution should have these features:

• Incremental backup capabilities to reduce the need for redundant full backups (increasing backup speed and network bandwidth)
• Source (reducing data sent from client) and target side (reducing data stored) deduplication for improved network performance and reduced storage of redundant data. Source deduplication is ideal for remote and branch office data; target deduplication is better for large databases so processing doesn't impact production database performance.
• Snapshot capabilities to enable instant recovery of virtual environments.

Examples of backup and recovery solutions include EMC Data Domain and Avamar, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recovery, and HP Data Protector.

IBM Storage Software Suite

IBM “ticks all the boxes” when it comes to storage management. Results from the IDC Worldwide Storage Software QView (reported Sept. 11, 2012) show the worldwide storage software market closed second quarter 2012 higher than the year ago quarter, but growing at only a 0.9 percent rate. This was the second consecutive quarter of reduced year-over-year growth for the market and a performance level lower than any time since fourth quarter 2009. Interestingly, in an IT segment that’s otherwise experiencing sluggish growth, IBM reports that Tivoli Storage Management has grown “in double digits” for six consecutive quarters with a 13 percent growth rate in second quarter 2012. Let’s look more closely at the IBM Storage Software Suite.

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