Storage Management
Storage Management

The Definitive Guide to Windows 2003 Storage Resource Management

by Evan Morris


Arguably, storage is the most important area of Information Technology (IT). Certainly network infrastructure is required to provide access, and server operations are necessary to process and share information, but storage is the heart and soul of an organization’s information system. When storage is endangered or stored information is lost, the other pieces of the system become irrelevant—the system becomes technology without the information. Through this guide, you’re embarking on a hopefully enjoyable journey through which you will learn valuable information about the Windows approach to storage and how to best make use of it.


Chapter 1: Introduction to Windows Server 2003 Storage Resource Management

Arguably, storage is the most important area of Information Technology (IT). Certainly network infrastructure is required to provide access, and server operations are necessary to process and share information, but storage is the heart and soul of an organization’s information system. When storage is endangered or stored information is lost, the other pieces of the system become irrelevant—the system becomes technology without the information. Through this guide, you’re embarking on a hopefully enjoyable journey through which you will learn valuable information about the Windows approach to storage and how to best make use of it.

Windows Server 2003 (WS2K3) provides exciting new storage-related features (especially compared with the offerings of Windows NT and Windows 2000—Win2K). However, this guide isn’t simply an opportunity for lavish praise of Windows Server and storage resource management (SRM). The reality is that storage and SRM are necessary evils.

Perhaps you have worked for one of those companies whose approach to storage management was to simply continue adding storage. However, when the dot com boom went bust, most companies began slashing budgets, which put an end to this storage management methodology. Systems and network administrators have been left with the job of cleaning up and managing the resulting storage nightmare. Compounding the problem is users’ expectation of simply adding storage as the solution. To clean up this mess and ensure IT health for your organization in the future, you need to employ a thorough SRM methodology.

Chapter 2: Analyzing Your Storage

In Chapter 1, we took a quick look at Windows Server’s storage offerings. In this chapter, I’ll show you how to make the most of the new WS2K3 product using the built-in features and a healthy portion of resource kit and support tools to analyze your storage requirements. There are many new tools and they are often free for download, so I’ll show you where to get them and what they do.
In addition, I’ll discuss the process of analyzing your current storage environment. First, detailing the levels or hierarchy of auditing: organization, network, domain, servers, storage systems, shares, folders, and files. I’ll then provide templates for the types of information that you’ll want to gather, including determining storage utilization (used and available disk space) and identifying the storage users.

inally, we’ll explore what you can and can’t do with Windows Server’s native analysis tools, such as Performance Monitor, as well as with tools in the Windows Server resource kit. We’ll set the stage for taking a first-hand look at the need for third-party SRM tools to show how they can improve the audit process and prepare you for the next phase—planning your SRM deployment.

Chapter 3: Analyzing and Planning Storage

In the previous chapter, we explored the built-in features, resource kit, and support tools of WS2K3. I defined the requirements for the storage analysis phase, then we took a look at how much of this work could be done using the available tools. Although there are many built-in tools at our disposal, there are still some tasks—such as detailed analysis about who is using storage—that will benefit from the features offered by third-party SRM products. We’ll explore such tools in this chapter.

In addition, we’ll begin to explore the next phase—planning an SRM deployment. We’ll use the information that we captured about both storage capacity and storage performance to determine a course of action (or courses of action, if you’re used to contingency planning). I’ll present you with a flowchart that will help to lay out the storage-management decisions that you must make; most notably, whether you decide to live within your existing capacity or to add capacity. During the course of this chapter, we’ll look at using SRM tools for performing trend analysis and capacity planning.

Finally, we’ll look at how SRM solutions can help eliminate duplicate files, unused files, and wasted space as well as reduce consumption. I’ll show you how to perform an analysis of your current environment—highlighting SRM techniques and reporting—to improve your storage usage efficiency. I’ll also explore the tools you can use to perform a detailed storage analysis, gathering information about who is using storage and how much.

Chapter 4: Developing the Storage Resource Management Solution

In the previous chapter, we took a look at capacity planning to ensure that you don’t underestimate storage resources’ growth and the resulting impact on IT administrative capabilities. I gave an example of using an SRM tool to analyze storage at more than one point in time so that you can perform trend analysis. I covered storage resource planning, and explained how to plan a course of action with a focus on increasing storage capacity or improving performance. Then I illustrated how you can use an SRM tool to support your decision to more efficiently use your existing storage rather than deploy new storage. We’ll dive into more detail about this decision as we develop an SRM solution for your organization.

In this chapter, we’ll explore two broad areas: structuring the storage management project and using storage management tools to make better use of your existing storage or your newly deployed storage. To address the need to expand storage arrays, you can attach to WS2K3 DFS; I’ll discuss this option and the hardware-selection process involved in migrating to new storage systems. In addition, we’ll take a brief look at the Windows Server RSS to decide whether it’s right for you. Finally, to illustrate how to design with performance in mind, we’ll look at hardware and a performance design example for Windows Server that uses Exchange Server 2003 as a storage application.

Chapter 5: Piloting and Revising the SRM Plan

In the previous chapter, we explored structuring the SRM project and Windows Server functionality. We looked at various ways of creating additional storage capacity—from linking systems through Windows Server features such as DFS and volume mount points to adding storage systems. I briefly covered storage hardware to make you aware of some of the design features to look for and the tradeoffs between performance and capacity. Also important is the choice of storage applications and storage location alternatives, as this selection affects your choice of SRM product and process. The outcome of your storage analysis and planning is both the storage-management decision points—such as whether to add more storage to the management problem or to make better use of our existing storage capacity—and the development of an organizational storage policy.

We exhausted the capabilities of the core Windows Server functionality and SRM features, including quota management, before turning to a more comprehensive solution. I detailed the product functionality that will assist you in reaching your SRM goals through setting disk quotas: eliminating duplicate files, eliminating unused files (aged and orphans), eliminating wasted space, and reducing excess consumption.

In this chapter, we will look at using storage management tools to make better use of either your existing storage or your newly deployed storage. We will look at the process of installing, documenting, and testing the SRM solution, preparing a staging of your real-world deployment. In this chapter, I’ll give you some sample tests and tools to use in your lab evaluation to help test and select an SRM product.

Chapter 6: Deploying the SRM Solution

In the previous chapter, we developed a test plan for your WS2K3 SRM solution, using StorageCentral as an example product for defining your pilot phase. In this chapter, we will extend that product focus to look at the broader category of storage management. As you will see, SRM and storage management are two distinct categories and do not necessarily solve the same problems. For example, making sure that your servers don’t run out of disk space is a different task than using a storage-management product to monitor the performance of your fibre-channel fabric. If you work in an environment in which you perform storage-management functions such as creating RAID arrays and allocating them to certain applications, you know how many tools you need to really manage a storage environment. To put it another way, storage management products manage storage devices, and SRM is about managing how people consume those storage resources.

Chapter 7: Manage and Maintain the SRM Solution

In the previous chapter, we covered the deployment phase of your SRM solution. We started by reviewing the SRM goals and components, and developed an organizational view of the SRM solution. Next, we looked at the different storage management strategies and the various products, listing product selection criteria for the following types of solutions: device configuration and management, enterprise storage management, application-centered SRM, fibre-channel SAN approach to SRM, and policy-based object management. I continued to cover project-management fundamentals, such as defining the critical path, setting milestones, and performing a risk analysis. I gave you a template for risk-mitigation techniques and how to identify sources of problems such as technical issues and people issues. We also looked at change control in the context of extending AD. Finally, I gave you some sample success-measurement criteria to help you define your objectives for this phase of the project.

In this chapter, we will continue the focus on project management, as you complete the deployment by setting up systems to monitor and maintain the SRM solution. In addition, we will cover the technical aspects of what you need to monitor and which solutions are available. I will give you a complete list of systems management recurring tasks that you can use to make sure that you have all your operations—including SRM functions—in place.

Chapter 8: SRM and Storage Futures

In this final chapter, we will look at the future of storage and SRM, including both hardware technology and software changes. First, we’ll look at the immediate future, at changes that are happening all around us that you may be wise to learn about and consider. Then I’ll take a more predictive look into the future and attempt to divine what the predominant or surviving technologies and standards will be. Much of this chapter will focus on networked storage, as clearly that is where the most improvement and increases in adoption will occur.

In the area of hardware, we’ll look at changes in “speeds and feeds” as we get faster pipes and possibly even greater distances. Some changes will be more about being able to achieve greater performance over greater distance; but what we are really interested in for this chapter is how these changes will affect storage management. Will they make it better or worse? One of the pending changes that will definitely improve storage management is Directory Enabled Networks (DEN) or, more precisely, directory-enabled storage networks.

One of the upcoming changes is in virtualization of devices and storage, which we touched upon earlier. In this chapter, we will also look at what virtualization means from a storage-management perspective. We will look at the server-side of storage networks, changes in host bus adapters (HBAs), booting from the SAN, and multi-path I/O and what it means for performance and fault tolerance. No discussion would be complete without covering disaster recovery, so we will look at distance mirroring, cloning and snapshots, and serverless backup. Some of these technologies exist today, albeit in their infancy, so we will look at where they will need to go to speed adoption.

One thing to keep in mind during this chapter is the idea of principles over protocols—that is, keep the business value in mind whenever you are investigating new technology. To give you a concrete example, some new technologies promise to give you the ability to bridge storage islands (which may be defined or isolated as such by specific protocols or cabling). Perhaps this technology is of interest to you, but what will be the benefit to the business? Do the applications running in each of these islands really need to be bridged or are they better off in the safety of isolation?