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Need tips for better disk management?

Disk management is a daunting task in today's heterogeneous enterprise environment. Experts from VERITAS explain why disk storage is so hard to control and how to use new technologies and good business practices to harness the beast.

Feel like storage disks are flying around your enterprise like Frisbees? Then join the crowd. The enterprise that is using only one disk format in drives located in one location is a rarity today. Adding to IT managers' disk management headaches is the constancy of change in disk technologies and of the need for more storage capacity. To give managers some headache relief, searchWindowsManageability asked Mountain View, CA-based VERITAS Software Corp. to offer some advice about best practices in disk management. Answering the call were Lisa Forsythe, VERITAS director of solutions and Karen Rask, Windows foundations senior product marketing manager.

sWM: : IT managers tell us that storage resource management, particularly disk management, has become more challenging than ever. Why?

No one anticipated the amount of disk space required for a Web server or the amount of use that databases running underneath Web servers were going to get. Tremendous performance challenges have come up as a result, and disk management has taken on a much greater importance than ever before.

sWM: Are there disk management challenges that are unique to Windows?

Windows administrators tell me that they're having difficulties in managing exponential growth and constantly changing environments, and this is causing difficulties in managing growth and changes efficiently. One reason is that Windows is truly becoming an enterprise environment, and systems have to be available 24x7. Another is that the Windows world has traditionally been made up of many small systems. It was common to just add another system when they ran out of space or needed something new.


With Windows moving from the desktop to full enterprise servers, NT managers rarely manage just 50 desktops anymore. Now, they're growing environments to the data center level with NT boxes large enough to be the management engine and attach to multiple RAID in the background. Often, this move takes them from just managing NT to managing UNIX and many other platforms. They are becoming true data administrators who are managing heterogeneous environments from one GUI.

sWM: : How has the rash of mergers and acquisitions in the business arena impacted disk management?

These mergers (create situations in which) there are many servers in one organization with arrays from different vendors, and managing all those boxes and arrays is difficult. Growing companies really need ways to manage storage more efficiently.

sWM: Has rapid growth in storage volume made it harder for IT managers to use traditional disk management methods?

The way most people do disk administration today is inefficient. If they have to make any changes or add disks, they back up all their data and take their systems offline. Usually, sys admins are coming in at night to do this. They've always had to backup with planned downtime, so they keep doing it that way.

Planned maintenance can be done a lot more efficiently with storage virtualization technologies, like VERITAS Volume Manager, which removes the physical limitations of hardware arrays and allows dynamic configuration and reconfiguration capabilities on line while users have access to data. There's never a need to take your systems down again. They can create, grow, mirror and optimize system performance of their volumes online.

sWM: Could you offer IT managers some do's and don'ts for efficient disk management?

Do not ever take your systems offline to do planned maintenance or backups again. Storage virtualization technologies make this unnecessary. Also, do optimize what you've got today. Use it efficiently. As your environment grows, then buy what you need.


Don't lock yourself into proprietary disk management software. Systems managers are working in environments that are becoming more and more heterogeneous. They're having to manage more types of disks in more types of applications than they ever anticipated. They need to find tools that enable system administrators to enable the performance requirements, whatever the disks being used. This can make the disk choice independent, so that they can choose disks based on their businesses' needs.


Do focus on high availability and performance. In mission critical environments such as ecommerce or Web-based applications, data availability is critical. If your data isn't available when the user goes to your website, your server might as well be down. It used to be okay to take a server down to do planned maintenance or backup. Now, your server has to be available 7x24. So managers are looking for ways to do planned maintenance and backups more efficiently.

sWM: Can you offer any disk management-related business process tips?

Do understand the business and end user requirements and usage patterns. One of the biggest challenges is predicting usage growth. If you anticipate usage patterns and create a better, easier-to-use, faster environment, people are going to use it more. All of a sudden you have 5X growth, when you anticipated 2X growth. Then you're left with figuring out how to reuse, reallocate, add to, remirror, and so on, to meet the needs you didn't anticipate.

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