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Get Your Storage Under Control with SANscreen

In the current economic environment, driving up IT efficiency and driving down costs have become a business imperative. The more effectively you can manage your servers, networks, and storage, the better you can meet these objectives. Unfortunately, management tools for storage have not kept pace with management tools for the server and network domains.

When it comes to storage management there are four areas in which even seemingly basic questions are surprisingly hard to answer with certainty:

  • Visibility. What storage do you have? Where is it? Has it changed? How does it map to applications?
  • Availability. What’s affected when you make a configuration change? Is your environment redundant? Where are the risks?
  • Capacity management and utilization. Is storage being used? Who’s using it? If there’s chargeback, who’s paying for it? When do you need to buy more?
  • Performance. Where are your bottlenecks? How can you optimize and tune your storage environment? How should you implement tiering?

The goal of NetApp® SANscreen® software is to improve the quality and efficiency of storage management with real-time, multivendor, multiprotocol service-level views of your storage environment, allowing you to quickly find answers to questions like those above and many others. This article examines SANscreen in detail, including common uses of SANscreen, and provides some real-world examples.

What Is SANscreen?

SANscreen is a full suite of storage management software that lets you manage storage as an end-to-end service and integrate storage into your entire IT service-delivery chain. You choose the functionality you need to meet your specific requirements.

Service Insight is the baseline SANscreen product. It provides visibility into your storage environment, including host-to-storage access paths, storage availability, and change management. Unlike many other storage management products, Service Insight operates without agents; it is read-only, near real time, and works with all major storage platforms and protocols. Service Insight continuously discovers storage devices, along with their configurations, identifying volumes, mapping and security, network protocols, and more.

Service Insight technology is based on the idea of service paths, which describe the relationship between a particular application on a given server and its data on a storage device. Service Insight provides the information you need to manage your storage services proactively to increase service quality, prevent application failures, and improve recovery time. It reduces costs by improving utilization and decreasing the time and effort required for troubleshooting.

Included in Service Insight is an open, enterprise-class data warehouse that provides a central repository for all inventory information. This warehouse enables you to roll up multisite environments, gain global visibility across distributed infrastructures, and take advantage of detailed analysis and reporting capabilities. The data warehouse also facilitates integration with third-party applications and processes such as configuration management databases (CMDBs), financial accounting systems, and asset management systems. Service Insight reporting capabilities provide a centralized portal for querying and viewing critical storage information to help you with tactical, operational, and strategic decisions.

Service Assurance builds on the service path modeling of Service Insight to manage your storage as an end-to-end service. Service Assurance defines global, application, or host-based policies based on parameters such as security, sharing, minimum sessions, and minimum connections. It then validates any changes you make against this service model in real time to determine whether they violate your policies in a way that could lead to latent issues or outages.

Application Insight gathers near-real-time, fabric, and storage performance data from your storage environment and maps it to applications, hosts, and service paths. It lets you proactively perform load balancing in the SAN or on the storage device to avoid congestion or contention.

Capacity Manager provides near-real-time visibility into global storage resource allocations, rule-based service-tier management, and a variety of capacity-related issues. In conjunction with the SANscreen storage data warehouse, Capacity Manager aggregates relevant storage system and network switch information from multiple SANscreen instances.

The data warehouse facilitates capacity-related reports such as chargeback, consumption analysis, and forecasting. Capacity Manager includes dozens of out-of-the-box reports, plus it provides flexible report authoring, allowing you to create custom reports to support capacity planning, purchasing, storage-tier analysis, storage service catalogs, trending and historical usage, audit, chargeback, and more.

VM Insight builds on SANscreen service path awareness and change management to create cross-domain visibility from the virtual machine (VM) to the volume, allowing you to more easily manage both your storage and virtual server architectures.

Using SANscreen

To help make the true value of SANscreen clearer, here are a few examples of how it can support ongoing storage-related initiatives within your organization.

Capacity Management. SANscreen can help you balance load requirements to squeeze maximum capacity utilization out of your storage infrastructure without introducing hot spots. From a single interface, you can drill down at either the host or application level to see exactly which storage resources are being used (arrays, disks, volumes), how well each resource is being utilized, and potential contention with other hosts or applications using the same storage resources. The goal is to leverage the right resources for the right applications and proactively manage capacity to avoid bottlenecks or underutilized conditions.

Figure 1) SANscreen can quickly identify the least- or most-utilized storage objects, determine where to allocate the next volume, and locate candidates for migration to different tiers.

Using this approach, you can make sure that your VMs, physical hosts, and/or applications aren’t overloading a single storage system, or that a business-critical application isn’t competing for resources with other noncritical applications.

You can easily see how well balanced your storage environment is, which allows you to identify and correct hot spots by moving applications to underutilized storage resources. You also can quickly identify the best storage resources to use as you provision a new application.

Server Virtualization. When it comes to your server virtualization efforts, SANscreen provides cross-domain monitoring, which gives you better visibility of what’s happening with your virtual machines and associated storage from a single GUI. This allows you to maximize the utilization of storage associated with virtual machines.

For example, virtual environments are dynamic and a VM can easily be suspended or shut down and forgotten. SANscreen helps you identify and reclaim the corresponding orphaned storage capacity.



Figure 2) Identifying orphaned capacity in your virtual environments with SANscreen.

You probably have a number of physical servers in addition to your virtual environment. Using SANscreen, you can quickly identify physical servers that are generating very little traffic across the SAN. These will likely be good candidates for virtualization.



Figure 3) Identifying physical servers that are good candidates for virtualization.

Storage Tiering
If you have a tiering strategy in place, SANscreen helps you optimize it by identifying the traffic patterns to various storage tiers. For instance, if you identify an application that is generating minimal traffic to tier-1 storage, it is likely a good candidate for a lower (and less expensive) tier. This frees up tier-1 capacity for more critical applications.

This strategy was leveraged at a leading global Web company. Based on the SANscreen findings, this ISP was able to invert its tiering strategy. It formerly employed a two-tier strategy, with 75% high-performance tier-1 storage and 25% lower-performance tier-2 storage, when all that was actually needed was 25% tier-1 storage and 75% tier-2 storage. This change translates into big storage savings going forward because tier-2 storage purchases replace those for expensive tier-1 storage.



Figure 4) Tier-1 capacity receiving very little traffic.

If you haven’t implemented tiering yet, SANscreen can provide the information you need to help determine your tiering requirements based on SAN traffic profiles and/or array performance metrics.

Cost Awareness and Chargeback. Through historical or real-time reports, SANscreen gives you the ability to understand who is using what capacity (by business unit or by application) and assign a value to each tier of storage for chargeback.



Figure 5) Quarterly cost of storage report by business unit, application, and tier.

Migration Planning. Because SANscreen maintains a physical and logical representation of your entire storage environment you can perform a simulated migration and see what the impacts are in terms of your existing policies. Based on the simulation a migration plan is built that takes into account storage services that need to be delivered during and after migration.

A large discount retailer expected to spend up to five months planning a data center migration. With its migration simulation capabilities, SANscreen brought the planning phase down to just two months.

Visibility Is the Key

The key advantage SANscreen delivers is near-real-time visibility and monitoring for all aspects of multiprotocol, multivendor storage environments. Here are a few additional examples from leading corporations.

  • A large financial institution with a very diverse multivendor storage environment spent months trying to implement an agent-based storage resource management (SRM) solution. Because the IT team was never able to get agents installed everywhere, the product never delivered the visibility and monitoring the company needed. This company ultimately switched to SANscreen because its agentless architecture delivers full visibility into multivendor environments without needing to install agents everywhere.
  • Another financial institution used SANscreen to support a merger. By understanding the available resources at both institutions the IT teams were able to avoid purchasing additional storage capacity during the transition, resulting in a return on the software investment in only a few weeks.
  • A large aerospace company and a leading networking company rely on SANscreen to identify and correct SAN bottlenecks. SANscreen shows traffic patterns and lets these companies quickly identify both over- and under-utilized resources to keep operations running smoothly.

Conclusion

On average, most companies overprovision storage—typically by as much as 30%—to provide a buffer against capacity planning errors. SANscreen lets you lower this buffer and defer costs without underprovisioning and getting caught short.

Whether you face challenges with virtualization, tiering, capacity management, migration, performance, or other issues, SANscreen can help. With near-real-time agentless operation, SANscreen delivers complete insight into your storage environment, allowing you to increase efficiency, make better decisions, and reduce both capital and operating expenses.

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Joshua Konkle

Steve Cohen
Product Marketing Manager
NetApp

Steve has over 20 years’ experience delivering enterprise software. He has worked with IT groups of all sizes to solve application management, service management, and storage management challenges. Steve currently focuses on SANscreen product marketing as part of NetApp’s Storage Management Software Solutions group.

 
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