13.1 Introduction to Storage Infrastructure Management

Storage Infrastructure management  defines the management and monitoring of the storage
devices in the data centers. The three major areas of management are capacity, performance, and availability. These three areas can be easily summarized as good storage management, which is about making sure that the storage is always available, always has enough space, and is fast in terms of performance. Good storage management requires solid processes, policies, and tools. 
Storage Infrastructure Management Overview
An example of a good process is life-cycle management, including commissioning and decommissioning servers and services. If you just turn off servers and unplug them without reclaiming the storage associated with them, you will end up with a hopelessly underutilized storage with islands of wasted capacity. As organizations are driving their IT infrastructure to support the workload of next generation applications such as bigdata and cloud, the storage infrastructure management is also transformed to meet the application requirements. Management functions are optimized to help an organization to become a social networking, mobility, big data, or cloud service provider. Before going to storage management techniques, let us see what are the storage infrastructure components and how they are managed previously.

Storage Infrastructure Components

The key storage infrastructure components are Servers, storage systems, and storage area networks (SANs). These components could be physical or virtual and are used to provide services to the users. The storage infrastructure management includes all the storage infrastructure-related functions that are necessary for the management of the infrastructure components and services, and for the maintenance of data throughout its lifecycle. These functions help IT organizations to align their storage operations and services to their strategic business goal and service level requirements. They ensure that the storage infrastructure is operated optimally by using as few resources as needed. They also ensure better utilization of existing components, thereby limiting the need for excessive ongoing investment on infrastructure.

Traditional Storage Management

Traditionally, storage infrastructure management is component specific. The management tools only enable monitoring and management of specific components. This may cause management complexity and system interoperability issues in a large environment that includes many multi-vendor components residing in world-wide locations. In addition, traditional management operations such as provisioning LUNs and zoning are mostly manual. The provisioning tasks often take days to weeks to complete, due to rigid resource acquisition process and long approval cycle. Further, the traditional management processes and tools may not support a service oriented infrastructure, especially if the requirement is to provide cloud services. They usually lack the ability to execute management operations in agile manner, respond to adverse events quickly, coordinate the functions of distributed infrastructure components, and meet sustained service levels. This component specific, extremely manual, time consuming, and overly complex management is simply not appropriate for the next generation storage infrastructure.

Service oriented Storage Management for emerging Technologies

The storage management functions for the new and next generation technologies are different in many ways from the traditional management and have a set of distinctive characteristics. 

  • Service-Focused Approach
  • Software-defined infrastructure aware
  • End-to-end visibility
  • Orchestrated Operations
Service-Focused Approach
The storage infrastructure management for the emerging technologies like big data and cloud has a service-based focus. It is linked to the service requirements and service level agreement (SLA). Service requirements cover the services to be created/upgraded, service features, service levels, and infrastructure components that constitute a service. An SLA is a formalized contract document that describes service level targets, service support guarantee, service location, and the responsibilities of the service provider and the user. These parameters of a service determine how the storage infrastructure will be managed. For example, the SLA might consists of

  • Determine optimal amount of storage space needed in a storagepool to meet the capacity requirements of services.
  • Create a disaster recovery plan to meet the recoverytime Objective (RTO) of services.
  • Ensure that the management processes, mangement software and staffing are appropriate to provide services.
  • Return services to the users within agreed time period in the event of a service failure.
  • Validate changes to the storage infrastrucure for creating or modifying a service.
Software-defined infrastructure management
In the cloud environment, more value is given to the software-defined infrastructure management over the traditional physical component-specific management. Management functions are increasingly becoming decoupled from the physical infrastructure and moving to external software controller. As a result of this shift, the infrastructure components are managed through the software controller. The controller usually has a native management tool for configuring components and creating services. Administrators may also use independent management tools for managing the storage infrastructure. Management tools interact with the controller commonly through the application programming interfaces (APIs).

Management through a software controller has changed the way a traditional storage infrastructure is operated. The software controller automates and abstracts many common, repeatable, and physical component-specific tasks, thereby reducing the operational complexity. This allows the administrators to focus on strategic, value-driven activities such as aligning services with the business goal, improving resource utilization, and ensuring SLA compliance. Further, the software controller helps in centralizing the management operations. For example, an administrator may set configuration settings related to automated storage tiering, thin provisioning, backup, or replication from the management console. Thereafter, these settings are automatically and uniformly applied across all the managed components that may be distributed across wide locations. 

End-to-End visibility
Management for the cloud and next generation technologies provides end-to-end visibility into the storage infrastructure components and deployed services. The end-to-end visibility of the storage infrastructure enables comprehensive and centralized management. The administrators can view the configuration, connectivity, capacity, performance, and interrelationships of all infrastructure components centrally. Further, it helps in consolidating reports of capacity utilization, correlating issues in multiple components, and tracking the movement of data and services across the infrastructure.

Depending on the size of the storage infrastructure and the number of services involved, the administrators may have to monitor information about hundreds or thousands of components located in multiple data centers. In addition, the configuration, connectivity, and interrelationships of components change as the storage infrastructure grows, applications scale, and services are updated. Organizations typically deploy specialized monitoring tools that provide end-to-end visibility of a storage infrastructure on a digital dashboard. In addition, they are capable of reporting relevant information in a rapidly changing and varying workload environment.

Orchestrated Operations
Orchestration refers to the automated arrangement, coordination, and management of various system or component functions in a storage infrastructure. Orchestration, unlike an automated activity, is not associated with a specific infrastructure component. Instead, it may span multiple components, located in different locations depending on the size of a storage infrastructure. In order to sustain in a cloud environment, the storage infrastructure management must rely on orchestration. Management operations should be orchestrated as much as possible to provide business agility. Orchestration reduces the time to configure, update, and integrate a group of infrastructure components that are required to provide and manage a service. By automating the coordination of component functions, it also reduces the risk of manual errors and the administration cost.

A purpose-built software, called orchestrator, is commonly used for orchestrating component functions in a storage infrastructure. The orchestrator provides a library of predefined workflows for executing various management operations. Workflow refers to a series of inter-related component functions that are programmatically integrated and sequenced to accomplish a desired outcome. The orchestrator also provides an interface for administrators or architects to define and customize workflows. It triggers an appropriate workflow upon receiving a service provisioning or management request. Thereafter, it interacts with the components as per the workflow to coordinate and sequence the execution of functions by these components.

Storage Infrastructure Management key Functions

Storage infrastructure management performs two key functions

  • Infrastructure discovery
  • Operations management
Infrastructure discovery creates an inventory of infrastructure components and provides information about the components including their configuration, connectivity, functions, performance, capacity, availability, utilization, and physical-to-virtual dependencies. It provides the visibility needed to monitor and manage the infrastructure components. Discovery is performed using a specialized tool that commonly interacts with infrastructure components commonly through the native APIs of these components. Through the interaction, it collects information from the infrastructure components. A discovery tool may be integrated with the software-defined infrastructure controller, bundled with a management software, or an independent software that passes discovered information to a management software. Discovery may also be initiated by an administrator or be triggered by an orchestrator when a change occurs in the storage infrastructure.
Operations management involves on-going management activities to maintain the storage infrastructure and the deployed services. It ensures that the services and service levels are delivered as committed. Operations management involves several management processes. Ideally, operations management should be automated to ensure the operational agility. Management tools are usually capable of automating many management operations. These automated operations are described along with the management processes. Further, the automated operations of management tools can also be logically integrated and sequenced through orchestration. The key functions of Storage Operations Management are

  • Configuration Management – Configuration management is responsible for maintaining information about configuration items (CI). CIs are components such as services, process documents, infrastructure components including hardware and software, people, and SLAs that need to be managed in order to deliver services.
  • Capacity Management – Capacity management ensures adequate availability of storage infrastructure resources to provide services and meet SLA requirements. It determines the optimal amount of storage required to meet the needs of a service regardless of dynamic resource consumption and seasonal spikes in storage demand. It also maximizes the utilization of available capacity and minimizes spare and stranded capacity without compromising the service levels.
  • Performance Management – Performance management ensures the optimal operational efficiency of all infrastructure components so that storage services can meet or exceed the required performance level. Performance-related data such as response time and throughput of components are collected, analyzed, and reported by specialized management tools. The performance analysis provides information on whether a component meets the expected performance levels. These tools also proactively alert administrators about potential performance issues and may prescribe a course of action to improve a situation.
  • Availability Management – Availability management is responsible for establishing a proper guideline based on the defined availability levels of services. The guideline includes the procedures and technical features required to meet or exceed both current and future service availability needs at a justifiable cost. Availability management also identifies all availability-related issues in a storage infrastructure and areas where availability must be improved.
  • Incident Management – An incident is an unplanned event such as an HBA failure or an application error that may cause an interruption to services or degrade the service quality. Incident management is responsible for detecting and recording all incidents in a storage infrastructure. The incident management support groups investigate the incidents escalated by the incident management tools or service desk. They provide solutions to bring back the services within an agreed timeframe specified in the SLA. If the support groups are unable to determine and correct the root cause of an incident, error-correction activity is transferred to problem management. In this case, the incident management team provides a temporary solution (workaround) to the incident
  • Problem Management – A problem is recognised when multiple incidents exhibit one or more common symptoms. Problem management reviews all incidents and their history to detect problems in a storage infrastructure. It identifies the underlying root cause that creates a problem and provides the most appropriate solution and/or preventive remediation for the problem. Incident and problem management, although separate management processes, require automated interaction between them and use integrated incident and problem management tools. These tools may help an administrator to track and mark specific incident(s) as a problem and transfer the matter to problem management for further investigation.
  • Security Management – Security management is responsible for developing information security policies that govern the organization’s approach towards information security management. It establishes the security architecture, processes, mechanisms, tools, user responsibilities, and standards needed to meet the information security policies in a cost-effective manner. It also ensures that the required security processes and mechanisms are properly implemented.. Security management ensures the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information in a storage infrastructure. It prevents the occurrence of security-related incidents or activities that adversely affect the infrastructure components, management processes, information, and services. It also meets regulatory or compliance requirements (both internal and external) for protecting information at reasonable/acceptable costs.
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