In the world of high-performance highly available applications, the end-user experience and meeting SLAs are of paramount importance to the IT team responsible for supporting high transaction volume systems that are critical to maintaining and driving business. Meanwhile, the explosive growth of data is straining information infrastructures and putting added pressure on IT to maintain or even improve performance levels while attempting to avoid increased storage and switching costs wherever possible as long as service levels are not compromised.
This scenario was well portrayed by Ryan Perkowski, a 10 plus year financial services SAN-management veteran who shared his experiences, expertise and opinions with the Wikibon community during a January 12th Peer Incite research meeting. Ryan walked participants through his present storage environment, which has grown from 30TB to over 450TB in the last few years. The most mission critical applications include a SAS analytics instance and a customer data warehouse totaling roughly 20TB running on an Oracle database. Because his environment is overwhelmingly populated with Cisco MDS 9000 multilayer directors and fabric switches as well as EMC DMX-3 and DMX-4 storage arrays, he initially utilized the [EMC Control Center (ECC) platform] to minimize the number of applications needed to help manage the SAN.
Problem with SAN Management Platforms
While Perkowski still needed the core array tools provided by EMC to do mapping, masking, and zoning, the goal of a acquiring a product to bring together all the necessary reporting, monitoring, and SAN management capabilities into a “single pane of glass” in his complex environment ultimately proved to be an illusion. In particular, ECC lacks the ability to provide IT with an end-user-centric view.
Perkowski turned to Virtual Instruments and its NetWisdom family of SAN I/O performance monitoring and SAN troubleshooting products and also to SANscreen from NetApp, which it acquired from Onaro. NetWisdom is a dedicated monitoring tool that uses a combination of software and hardware to probe the storage network and in particular the components that are problematic, in this case the Oracle data warehouse infrastructure. SANscreen is a heterogeneous service management suite which, among other things, describes the relationships between a particular application on a given server and its data on a storage device.
As a result of bringing in Virtual Instruments, and NetApp’s SANScreen, two best of breed tools, large shops like Perkowski’s are able to get critical SAN performance data, obviating the need for ECC and other aggregation tools with diluted functionality. Unfortunately in this instance, the goal of a single pane of glass ultimately results in a watered-down version of everything.
Action Item: Large, complex SAN environments should get rid of unneeded management software that doesn’t interoperate well and doesn’t solve the problem. Get rid of bloated, poorly integrated management software and replace it with best of breed point solutions that will drive higher ROI.