New features and functionality are constantly being added to storage systems. As operations have come to depend on functions such as remote replication and snapshots embedded in the storage systems, the features have become competitive requirements for products.
We’ve recently seen Storage Resource Management (SRM) software functions move into storage systems. These software functions, generally called operational analytics, work as Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. They collect data from storage arrays, upload it to public cloud services or storage vendor sites, and provide analytics reports to users.
Access and analytics through SaaS makes information more broadly available – access from anywhere is permitted with the correct credentials. Using service providers or vendor sites as the collection point allows multiple storage systems, possibly from different geographic locations, to be monitored and information aggregated. Vendors also use the information for monitoring system health, performing proactive maintenance, and controlling updating of system software. They can accumulate data across their entire product base to detect anomalies and other event commonalities to research and develop remedies before problems affect customers.
Operational analytics provided by storage systems and accessed using SaaS is a valuable development for managing storage. The tools can be understood and utilized without the expertise required when using more comprehensive tools such as SRM software.
The operational analytics functions most commonly introduced into storage systems with SaaS analysis include:
• Capacity planning – reporting that shows past consumption and a prediction showing the expected needed additions. Capacity reporting not only may be on a per system basis but also could be grouped or aggregated across multiple systems.
• Health status – notifications, log events, and drill downs on the systems for monitoring of systems.
• Performance – historical reporting of performance data, isolation to help identify performance issues, and projections on performance needs in the future.
• Dashboards – customizable by LUN, filesystem, group and so on, for use by IT generalist to provide operational information.
• Vendor support – notifications, log analysis, machine status information for support actions.
These programs collect information by allowing the storage system to send data directly to the service provider/vendor site over the network, or by adding software on a server or in a virtual machine that pulls data from the storage system and then sends it to the collection site. Most vendors offer the basic operational analytics information and processing as part of the support contract for the storage system. Some vendors have an advanced offering with advanced capabilities that requires an additional license that is usually priced on capacity. Using external links for the data through a network is a problem for some operations but the operational analytics does enable improved storage management.
Here are a few of the vendors’ operational analytics offerings, listed to give an idea of the availability but not intended to be a complete list. The availability for other products not listed here should be checked with the vendor.
• EMC Unity CloudIQ is the operational analytics feature that requires ESRS monitoring to be enabled. The basic level provides reporting and management with an option to report into VMware vRealize. An advanced version adds more analysis and requires local software to collect additional information.
• HPE StoreFront Remote for 3PAR, StoreOnce and StoreVirtual is the operational analytics solution included with the systems without additional software required onsite. Reporting into VMware requires additional software.
• IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights requires software to collect and report information for capacity and performance reporting along with a real-time dashboard and future trending. Both file and block storage from IBM are supported. Analytics for optimization are included with recommendations for data movement to different tiers. Software is licensed by capacity.
• Nimble InfoSight predicts performance (IOPS), capacity, and bandwidth needs. “What if” modeling is included for effects of potential changes. Problem analysis from sensor data, dashboards, and device management is also included.
• PureStorage Pure1 Cloud Global Insight includes management and operational analytics. Capacity and performance predictions for systems in addition to monitoring are basic functions. Management includes controlling upgrades and log analysis by support.
• Tintri Analytics provide capacity, performance and throughput analytics and predictions at the VM level. Modeling of “what if” changes are included with the VM view. Isolation to the VM granularity allows for application level view with the analytics.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).