5 mistakes companies make when deploying SRM software

Users of storage resource management products may not always make the best use of the software. Besides storage operations, SRM can also help to develop business processes and increase the bottom line. For those who deploy SRM today, here are five common mistakes to avoid.

1. Evaluating SRM tools solely from a technology perspective.

While organizations should consider technical criteria when selecting an SRM tool, they should also consider how it will help them solve everyday business problems. In addition to providing detailed reports about your environment, a good SRM tool can also aid in making successful business decisions.

For example, when a failure occurs somewhere in the infrastructure, an SRM tool can immediately provide administrators with a view of which servers and applications are affected by the failure. With this capability, IT organizations can better determine the impact of the problem and respond appropriately.

2. Failing to consider the tool's analytic capability.

All SRM solutions have one thing in common: They collect massive amounts of data about the storage infrastructure. The best solutions, however, make this data useful by turning it into relevant information that helps managers understand and analyze the environment more effectively.

Examples of analytic capabilities include exception and exposure reporting. For example, storage discrepancy reports can identify "lost" or improperly configured storage that is allocated from the array but not visible to the server. Illustrating this information in a meaningful way might enable a company to postpone purchasing additional hardware. Backup exposure reports can also identify servers or file systems that aren't backed up, avoiding potentially catastrophic data loss

3. Becoming a victim of vendor lock-in.

Most companies standardize on storage hardware from at least two vendors, which allows them to maintain negotiating leverage by forcing these vendors to compete for their business. But the company might lose that leverage if it selects the SRM tool from the hardware vendor that offers limited platform support. It is critical to select the SRM tool that supports the platforms you have installed today and ones you might consider in the future.

One of the major benefits SRM tools can provide is improved use of existing resources, allowing companies to postpone additional purchases. By selecting a SRM tool that is vendor-independent, you ensure there will be no conflict of interest with your hardware vendor managing the storage environment.

The SRM solution you select should also support industry standards, such as the Storage Management Initiative Specification. Although most of the hardware deployed today doesn't support this standard, it will become increasingly important in the future.

4. Assuming the solution will perform the same way in a large production environment as it does in the demo.

A sales demo is designed to show the product in the most favorable light. To this end, the demo typically includes a very small, carefully selected environment. However, this can lead to surprises when you actually deploy the product.

For example, many SRM solutions are based on a client/server architecture, which works fine in small, single-site environments. However, these applications fall short when the size of the infrastructure begins to grow. The number of connections a server can handle is finite, so performance bottlenecks become common as the number of connections and the amount of data being transferred increases. Companies often respond to this dilemma by adding additional servers. This approach creates new problems by distributing data too broadly and making it impossible for the infrastructure to be managed centrally.

Instead, the SRM solution should have a multitiered messaging architecture. This avoids the bottlenecks and performance problems common with client/server solutions. With this architecture, software modules concentrate and aggregate data streams across multiple tiers of remote data collectors, allowing the architecture to scale to large configurations. This is key in supporting large environments with a minimal amount of overhead.

5. Not recognizing the value that SRM provides in forming compliance strategies.

With compliance regulations putting pressure on companies to meet stringent requirements rather quickly, many organizations are applying quick-fix solutions to compensate. They are setting policies without understanding the infrastructure required to support those policies and procedures. This can lead to management setting unrealistic expectations that users can't meet or that the infrastructure cannot handle.

SRM products offer the first step toward understanding the data affected by compliance initiatives such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and HIPAA. Access patterns, usage reports and infrastructure information provided by SRM tools can give insight into storage usage throughout the enterprise so that management can see patterns of behavior for different types of data. This valuable information serves as a foundation for the effective design and implementation of compliance policies.

Many users implement SRM solutions to gain a better understanding of their storage environment. They often overlook, however, that the benefits extend well beyond basic storage operations and can help to establish business processes and increase the bottom line.

Ed Palmer is director of product management at Storability Software in Southborough, Mass., a division of Storage Technology and provider of enterprise SRM software.

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