The Holy Grail of Data Storage Management

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9780130130556: The Holy Grail of Data Storage Management

KEY BENEFIT:At least 75% of IT hardware expenditures in the next five years will be for data storage. This book shows IT executives how to create a comprehensive strategy for maximizing the availability, performance, and cost-effectiveness of enterprise storage.KEY TOPICS:A revolution in data storage is coming, as IT organizations realize that they must apply the same architectural, scalability, and investment protection criteria to storage purchases as they already apply to servers and other hardware. New categories of products are coming as well: network-attached storage, IBM's storage array architecture, JBOD ("just a bunch of disks") configurations, storage appliances, near-line storage, SANs (storage area networks); and more. Learn how to move towards the "holy grail" of data storage management. Toigo shows how define an enterprise storage framework that maps directly to a specific business and its technical needs, and helps make sense of any new storage alternative.MARKET:For all IT decision-makers responsible for enterprise storage, planning, architecture, and/or distributed systems.

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Review:

Based on extensive interviews with industry leaders, The Holy Grail of Data Storage Management provides a concise glimpse of the present state and future direction of enterprise databases. This authoritative and enthusiastically written text can benefit any IT professional working with databases at the department or enterprise level.

Best at displaying the current state of enterprise database implementation, including a diagnosis of the trend toward centrally managed data stores, this book focuses specifically on dedicated database networks (SANs) and Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances. Additionally, this title is a veritable primer for virtually every database standard (old and new), including SCSI-2, Fibre Channel, new storage options, optical-magneto (including DVD) standards, and even tape backups.

A section on RAID offered here is truly an excellent introduction to the strengths (and limitations) of different RAID architectures. It also surveys new options for enterprise storage (both SANs and NAS's) and defines a management process for getting control of central data stores on the enterprise. The book is particularly good at pointing out the problem of sharing databases on heterogeneous environments that use both Unix and Windows NT. It closes with emerging vendor-specific standards for universal data storage (such as Sun's StoreX) that might solve the problem once and for all (though the author tends to see universal initiatives as a sort of holy grail).

Both a guide to the state of the art in enterprise databases and a roadmap for the future, The Holy Grail of Data Storage Management serves an invaluable need for any manager or administrator who works with enterprise databases. This book's intelligent presentation of old and new technologies, along with many valuable product listings, can be a useful asset as your organization brings its databases into the next century. --Richard Dragan

Topics covered: Enterprise storage management fundamentals and planning, risk management, locally and centrally managed models, history of hard disk technology, PRML, ATA/IDE, SCSI, Serial Storage Architecture (SSA), Fibre Channel, RAID, Storage Area Networks (SANs), Network Attached Storage (NAS), tape backup standards, optical technologies, Hierarchical Storage Management (HMS), Sun StoreX, Compaq ENSA, EMC Enterprise Storage Networks, and product surveys.

From the Inside Flap:

PREFACE

Data storage and its management are rapidly becoming key issues for modern corporate information technology. While the job title storage manager may be commonplace in the glass house of the traditional mainframe environment, such a title rarely exists in the realm of distributed computing. In the distributed world, responsibilities for managing storage have been largely distributed with the servers to which storage devices have been attached.

A system administrator, with or without software tools beyond those provided as part of the operating system, is typically responsible for managing server storage. He or she provides storage planning, grooming, and other management tasks as a subset of general system maintenance effort.

This arrangement may have proven adequate as long as distributed servers were not tasked with hosting mission-critical applications. However, with the evolution of client/server computing as a trusted platform for mission-critical work, the emergence of Storage Area Networks (SANs) and other nontraditional storage configurations, and the new storage-centric focus of enterprise IT, such casual handling of storage management responsibilities is increasingly less appropriate.

Case in point: A number of SAN product vendors have observed that product sales have been somewhat impeded by the job skills requirements inherent in SAN management. The job title most involved in SAN acquisition decisions is that of system administrator, rather than network manager. Understanding and managing SANs (as well as their cousin technologies such as Network Attached Storage NAS devices) requires a blending of skills from the network, system, and storage management disciplines. In the absence of personnel possessed of a such "hybrid" skills sets, most SAN sales have been driven by demonstrations of specific applications, such as faster backups, rather than by presentations of the design and capabilities of the technology itself.1

In short, the acquisition of newer storage technologies such as SANs is being delegated to nonnetwork savvy system administrators, many of whom do not even possess the knowledge, skills, or tools required to manage even traditional server-captive storage configurations effectively. It is the argument of this book that the situation reflects a potential disaster inherent in unmanaged storage within the corporate IT enterprise.PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK

The purpose of this book is to provide a primer of sorts that will enable readers to begin cultivating the hybrid knowledge and skills they require to serve as storage managers within the modern IT enterprise. The scope of the book is large and its chapters address a broad range of subjects—from the particulars of storage devices themselves, to the fundamentals of interface and interconnect technologies, to the principles of effective management, to industry "best practices" in planning and analysis.

The book also endeavors to present the current "politics" behind storage technologies. Storage technologies do not develop in an apolitical vacuum, but in a competitive market where vendors vie constantly for a share of the customer base.

Generally speaking, vendor attitudes manifest more a kammeralist than a merchantilist bent. This means that vendors tend to perceive markets for their goods as fixed in size and dollar volume. Sales is a "zero sum game" in which my success is your loss. Only in cases of new technologies that create entirely new markets does the merchantilist worldview of expanding markets prevail.

Against this backdrop, the language of marketing, rather than technology, tends to obfuscate efforts to understand what products are appropriate for a given set of requirements. To the extent possible, this book endeavors to acquaint readers with the code words and buzz phrases of storage "market speak" in order to assist them in separating the kernels of practical information from the chaff of hyperbole and spin doctoring that often accompanies marketing communications.

It is expected that some material will be familiar to the reader, while other content will be new. This reflects the specific background and experience that the reader brings to the text.

Readers of this book are expected to have either a systems-specific or a networking-specific background: Enterprise storage management requires a mixture of skills from both disciplines.

This book is based on extensive research in the evolving area of enterprise storage technology and includes information taken from hundreds of hours of interviews with vendors and consumers of storage products. It is profusely illustrated with line drawings, product photos, charts, and graphs to aid in communicating complex concepts simply and to facilitate understanding.ORGANIZATION OF THE BOOK

The book is divided into three main parts. Part One provides a context for thinking about storage management and introduces some of the central themes explored in greater detail in subsequent parts of the book. Also provided in this section are several "generic" distributed storage models. These models are intended for use by the reader as a starting point in conceptualizing, planning, integrating, and managing storage capabilities in a distributed environment.

Part Two provides a detailed discussion of storage technologies themselves. The perpetuation of magnetic disk-based storage is considered at length. Beginning with an evolutionary overview of the technology underlying the magnetic hard disk, the latest engineering advancements in hard disk media, controller, and interface technology are examined.

From the micro-level focus on hard disk technology, we shift to a macro-level view and consider disk storage subsystems. Array technologies based on open and proprietary RAID implementations are considered in detail.

By the late 1990s, these array architectures comprised the preponderance of "tethered" (server-attached) storage subsystems. According to analysts, these arrays will be detached from servers over the next decade and migrated to storage area networks (SANs). How this is being accomplished and what capabilities SAN switches and hubs add to the enterprise storage platform will be considered in detail.

This section also includes a detailed examination of another, evolving, disk-based, storage architecture: network-attached storage (NAS). The untethering of storage and its related I/O operations and wait states from the server supports an "appliance view" of storage in an distributed computing context. We will conclude our examination of magnetic disk-based storage by looking at the "thin-server storage appliance" concept, initial products, and the problems that this approach solves (and creates) for IT planners.

In addition to magnetic disk and disk-based arrays, enterprise storage also includes tape and optical storage technologies. Technologies for near-online storage — including tape and optical storage subsystems — continue to have valuable roles to play in enterprise storage platforms. Their traditional missions in disaster recovery and system backup will be evaluated, together with evolving roles in production applications.

Part Three of the book is entitled Storage Management Techniques. Far from being an exhaustive manual for managing the many varieties of storage that are likely to be deployed within the corporate IT enterprise, this section seeks to provide the reader with a framework for analyzing and assessing the relevance of management approaches.

The section begins with an overview of a "project" whose objective is the implementation of an effective storage management capability. While highly simplified, the project model set forth introduces the generic objectives and tasks that need to be considered as IT professionals endeavor to take control of storage and its management within the corporate enterprise.

Core to defining effective storage solutions is the cultivation of a "storage infrastructure perspective." Looking at storage requirements from such a perspective helps to define the application-specific data layout and data movement requirements that a storage solution must support. This concept is illustrated using examples that range from very large databases (VLDBs), which undergird most of today's mission-critical client/server applications, to large-scale data streaming applications, such as digital video and audio editing, which are the harbingers of the next wave of "killer multimedia applications."

Some traditional applications and data movements persist, including hierarchical storage management (HSM) and backup/restore, which are discussed in detail as the third section concludes. Traditional HSM was a technique for optimizing storage capacity by migrating less-used data from "hot," "online," disk-based media to "near-online" (automated tape library or optical library media) or "off-line" (removable or archival tape) storage. This approach failed to catch on in the distributed environment for a number of reasons, including the falling price of disk storage, the distribution of data and lack of network infrastructure to support large data movements over production networks, and the desire of companies to keep all data online all of the time, particularly for applications such as data warehousing. As with traditional backup/restore applications, HSM is currently experiencing a renaissance of interest within the corporate environment, especially as the effects of unmanaged storage, especially increased downtime, begin to be felt. This chapter looks at the impact of new technologies for remote mirroring and the use of SANs to recast these traditional applications for modern service.

The conclusion of this book has two parts. First, it examines the major, competing initiatives in the storage industry to realize a goal of a "storage nirvana" in which all storage is easily managed, scaled, and shared to meet application and end user requirements. Each of these contending approaches, and the many others that will likely follow, reflect a vendor-sponsor's preferences and product orientation. At present, vendors show little inclination to reach an accommodation that will deliver an "open" approach, appropriate to all companies.

Despite the failure of vendors to deliver a common storage infrastructure, this book concludes that the pace of advancement of storage technology continues to stay ahead of the "storage pain curve" for IT organizations. As the market has demanded more storage, faster storage, and greater storage capacity, vendors have been ready with products to meet the need. While this may be regarded as a good thing, it has also supported the cultivation of a laissez-faire attitude among IT professionals based largely on an unstated belief that the situation will continue indefinitely.

This view, however, is a fallacy. As the unplanned deployment of storage capabilities continues, IT organizations are creating an environment that is prone both to dramatic increases in total cost of ownership and to disastrous interruptions of mission-critical business applications.

Inevitably, companies will be forced to begin a quest for the "Holy Grail" of rational storage resource planning. It is better that proactive steps be taken today than expensive and reactive ones tomorrow. The first step is education.A Living AppendixEven as this book goes to press, changes are happening in storage-related technology. To keep readers apprised of these changes, a site has been created on the World Wide Web to serve as a "living appendix" to the book. Visit the site at stormgt to remain current with the latest trends, products, and thinking about storage technology and storage management.A FINAL NOTE TO READERS

A book of this type is sure to draw criticisms as well as (hopefully) some applause. Advocates of competing technologies have a tendency to engage in "religious" wars over the merits of their preferred vision, approach, or protocol.

Some are more subtle than others. For example, in a recent interview with a Microsoft product manager, the author was advised that there are no problems of heterogeneous file system access if everyone simply abandons UNIX servers and moves to a completely Microsoft-standard server environment. The same sort of message has been received by representatives of Sun Microsystems, vendor of several popular UNIX platforms.

The author harbors no particular preference for one technology over another. It is the position of this book, based on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted with industry experts, end users, and analysts, that heterogeneous computing will continue to be a fact of life for at least as long as this book is likely to remain in print.

One bias that the author does embrace is a sort of real politik when it comes to enterprise IT. As in Hobbes' state of nature, life in an unmanaged IT environment is nasty, brutish, and short. Readers are asked to set to one side any idealistic views they may have of a perfect IT environment where self-directing and responsible end users, IT professionals, and vendors work together harmoniously to realize business goals. Real life suggests that management, while imperfect, is the best hedge we have against an unpredictable and chaotic future.

The Holy Grail, referenced in the title of this book, symbolizes a vision or quest that can never be fully actualized or concluded. This is not to say that IT professionals must engage in a pointless struggle to accomplish what can never be accomplished. Such an existential viewpoint would also make this book a pointless undertaking.

Rather, storage management, like so many other aspects of business technology management, seeks to anticipate what is within our ability to anticipate, so it can be controlled. Secondly, storage management seeks to minimize the harmful consequences of events that are beyond our ability to anticipate.

Given the pace of change in business and in technology, management must flexible and open to new opportunities. Effective management is constantly reinventing itself and redefining its objectives and strategies. It is in this context that the symbol of the Holy Grail is invoked. A well-managed enterprise storage platform is a worthwhile objective that requires constant attention and proactive effort on the part of skilled personnel. It is not, and can never be, a task that is completed once and for all.ENDNOTES

1.

Interview with Bill Lozoff, Director of Marketing, Gadzoox Networks, Inc., San Jose, CA. 1998.

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