Ignore SRM, Put Bottom Line at Stake

Overlooked and underappreciated-but far from unnecessary-SRM is a key element that IT departments ignore at their peril.

Overlooked and underappreciated—but far from unnecessary—SRM is a key element that IT departments ignore at their peril.

Whats at stake is nothing less than the bottom line. With high-capacity storage getting less expensive every day and more options coming online, its becoming increasingly crucial for IT staffs to intelligently plan for future storage needs.

During the past few months, most companies have focused their storage dollars on backup and disaster recovery solutions. And looking at the horizon, storage virtualization software as well as IP-based SAN (storage area network) solutions appear to be the leading candidates for future storage purchases in many organizations.

Nevertheless, every good storage management infrastructure begins and ends with storage resource management wares, despite the fact that these unglamorous products hardly ever get the same attention as new and emerging storage technologies do.

Products such as PowerQuest Corp.s PowerExpert SRM 5.0 allow IT managers to analyze the storage they have and monitor their users storage consumption patterns. This information can be critical, whether for plotting a companys storage future or for defending a current investment.

At the list price of $1,000 per server, an SRM package such as PowerExpert SRM might seem like a luxury for organizations with dozens of NAS (network-attached storage) appliances and low-capacity file servers (especially considering that legacy products are probably worth less than $1,000 each). However, large organizations that are committed to the goal of centralized storage simply cannot function efficiently without an SRM package or custom-built, in-house resource monitoring tools.

Know Your Data

SRM software can make the tedious tasks of gathering usage data and compiling it into useful reports a simple point-and-click affair for most companies. This information can be more than handy—it can save a company from making a costly mistake when planning any type of storage purchase.

Generally, the rule of thumb for acquiring storage hardware is to estimate the amount of storage needed and then double that estimate to make sure the new storage infrastructure doesnt become obsolete before implementation is complete.

Although this rule has worked well over the years, storage technology right now is at a perilous crossroads where it is almost impossible to predict which way the storage market will shift. The last thing any IT manager can afford to do is buy rapidly aging or already-obsolete systems. Overspending on a single technology can hurt, especially if your companys new SAN/NAS wonder system gets blown out of the water by a new solution next year.

By using SRM tools to accurately analyze trends, IT managers can know for sure what types of data are being created, a key factor that should determine what type of solution best fits an organizations needs. For example, if an SRM solution indicated that the data residing on a companys file servers is growing at an extremely rapid rate, the companys IT manager would know that investing more on NAS systems would be a safe bet.

Through the use of SRM products, IT managers can also determine the rate of data production, which can be used to schedule and plan storage upgrades. With the rapid explosion of storage capacity taking place, an unused terabyte of storage lying around not only has a large opportunity cost but also can look ridiculous the following year, when faster, improved storage hardware becomes available at a much lower price.

Another important use of SRM products is discovering patterns in which data is being accessed. For example, if an enterprise has a small set of data that gets hit often by many users, it may be a good idea to invest in a speedy solid-state disk solution because it will allow faster data access.

Likewise, if a storage report shows that there is a large portion of data that is barely ever accessed by users, it might be a good idea to investigate the feasibility of using a hierarchical storage management system to store these rarely used files on inexpensive storage media.

The key is to know your data and your users, and SRM tools can provide this knowledge.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar is at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.