Feb 1 ’13

Multi-Platform Storage Management: Reducing Complexity in Virtualized Computing Environments

by Jane Clabby in Enterprise Tech Journal

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.

IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center (VSC) provides Storage Hypervisor and Central Management. VSC includes SAN Volume Controller (SVC) external virtualization software, IBM Tivoli Productivity Center (TPC), and FlashCopy Manager. SVC creates a layer between the hypervisor and underlying hardware, enabling services (such as I/O caching, thin provisioning, compression, etc.) to be delivered and managed on a wide range of heterogeneous storage, while TPC provides centralized management. The TSM Suite for Unified Recovery provides capabilities to protect physical and virtual servers, endpoint devices (laptop and desktop), databases (DB2, Oracle, and Microsoft SQL), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications such as SAP, and email applications (Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino), and can protect Windows, Linux, UNIX, AIX, and other operating systems.

IBM packages these products so they can be deployed as needed, in any quantity; customers don’t have to acquire licenses for each product in the bundle. License costs are based on the amount of data TSM manages. Moreover, by using the space-saving features of IBM storage, such as deduplication, data compression and thin provisioning (bundled at no charge), customers can substantially reduce software costs and hardware consumption. That’s a huge incentive!

IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center

VSC combines the external storage virtualization capabilities of SVC with TPC storage management and application-aware snapshots for near-instant backup and recovery. SVC allows the pooling of storage from virtually any storage platform from any vendor (IBM, NetApp, EMC, HP, Dell, Hitachi, NEC, Sun, and others) to dramatically improve storage utilization. Because SVC isolates the hypervisor from the underlying hardware, services such as I/O caching, thin provisioning, compression, automated tiering, application-integrated snapshot/mirroring, and mobility-driven disruption avoidance are delivered consistently—regardless of storage array choice, improving efficiency and easing management. SVC also has integrated IBM Real-Time Compression (RTC), enabling the use of compression for production data. (EMC and NetApp, in contrast, are limited to low activity data.) By using RTC, you can increase system capacity as much as five times.

Included in VSC is a storage service catalog with highly automated provisioning of virtual storage resources and integration with usage-based chargebacks. Non-disruptive data mobility across heterogeneous tiers of storage is supported, as well as the ability to "stretch" virtual storage resources across physical data centers up to 300km apart. Organizations that combine these with virtual server mobility tools such as IBM PowerVM Live Partition Mobility and VMware vMotion can create virtual data centers that span physical locations and transparently move workloads from one place to another.

Centralized TPC management includes valuable features beyond storage hypervisor management. Built-in analytics simplify management and automate configuration, storage tiering, and data migration. TPC has a new Graphical User Interface (GUI) based on the well-received XIV and Storwize V7000 GUIs. The GUI is intuitive and user-friendly with “drag and drop” functionality; it’s supported on the XIV, Storwize V7000, Scale Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS), and SVC. Heterogeneous storage support is offered via the Storage Networking Industry Association’s Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) and provides operational control, asset and capacity management, as well as provisioning of heterogeneous storage platforms (including NetApp, HP, EMC, and Hitachi).

TSM Suite for Unified Recovery

The TSM Suite for Unified Recovery is a policy-based backup and recovery solution for data protection and recovery management, archive and retrieval, disaster recovery, online database and application protection (snapshot capabilities), and space management (such as data duplication). This combination of features helps organizations improve business continuity, reduce the risk of data loss, simplify management, address compliance requirements, and reduce costs.

Through a single user interface, backup and restore can be managed in physical, virtual, and cloud infrastructure across system and application types (including virtual machines, databases, file servers, and email) and can span geographically dispersed locations. IBM ProtecTIER is also integrated with TSM and employs in-line data deduplication for long-term, tape-based retention of archival data. While TSM Suite for Unified Recovery uses a fully integrated, enterprise-class DB2 relational database and transaction log to track metadata, no special database administration skills are required to operate it.

Summary

To address market growth in the storage management software segment, IBM has had to provide clear value to enterprise customers that have or are planning virtualized, cloud-based infrastructure featuring storage and platforms from multiple vendors and data centers that span multiple locations. These characteristics have increased complexity. Other important factors include accelerating demands from users, compliance and government regulations that require data protection and archiving, and a flat IT budget. The convergence of all these forces means that any investment in management software must be able to demonstrate a quick return on investment. Customers seeking to drive down both capital expenses (CAPEX) and operating expenses (OPEX) should look for:

• A “managed TB” pricing structure
• Multiple space-saving software techniques
• Unified recovery
• An easy-to-use management GUI supported across a broad range of storage platforms.

Value can be easily quantified, making an investment in the IBM Storage Software Suite an easy decision. That’s why IBM continues to see strong double-digit growth in the storage management software segment.