Burdened with balancing the explosion of enterprise storage volume with the growing complexity of applications spread across dynamic cloud environments, today's IT admins are finding it increasingly difficult to get a clear picture of the web of interdependencies between storage pools and virtualized apps. And that's affecting IT's ability to keep up with service-level agreements (SLAs), experts say.
"Companies need to ensure that the appropriate service levels are being delivered to a wide range of applications, even with rapidly growing, changing and complex IT environments," says Bob Laliberte, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
According to IDC, even as enterprise data center volume is expected to grow to 50 times its current size and the number of files to multiply by 75 times their current count in the next decade. And yet, the consultancy reports, the number of personnel tasked with storage management is expected to grow by only 1.5 times during the same time period.
These storage visibility and management woes experienced by its customers were some of the fundamental reasons why EMC acquired application performance management firm Watch4net earlier this summer for an undisclosed sum. And amid the flurry of announcements unveiled at VMworld this week, the company took the wraps off its speedy work to integrate the Watch4net assets into the new EMC Storage Resource Management (SRM) Suite together with EMC ProSphere and EMC Storage Configuration Advisor. The combination is one that EMC executives claim should help overburdened storage professionals get a better view into how storage and applications are performing together by providing real-time reporting on all resources and performance dependencies from the application to the host, and down to the storage array.
"If I look at the No. 1 advance offered here, it's really around that ability to extend the storage team's visibility up into the application, to really help them understand the impact storage is having on your application performance levels," says Kevin Gray, product marketing manager for EMC Information Management Group.
According to Laliberte, that improved big-picture view of how storage management affects applications is "a critical ability for any company with highly virtualized environments."
A recent study conducted by InformationWeek Reports found that storage made the list of the top five most-cited technology in need of updating or replacement in order to support a private cloud initiative within enterprises. Approximately 37% of organizations says they would need to replace or update storage equipment, and 33% say they would need to update storage design to make their private cloud a reality.
The question is whether an SRM suite like the one released by EMC this week will play a role in those storage infrastructure refresh cycles. According to Gartner analysts Valdis Filks and Gene Ruth in the Magic Quadrant for Storage Resource Management and SAN Management Software released in March, the SRM market achieved only between a 2% to 7% compound annual growth rate during the past five years.
"Many organizations believe that it costs less to perform SRM tasks by employing full-time administrators to gather data manually, develop and maintain their own SRM tools and reports than to purchase an SRM product," they wrote.
For his part, EMC customer Johan Marais, storage and virtualization administrator at Discovery Holding, says he chose to go with an SRM suite to give him "a full, 360-degree view of our storage infrastructure." Key in that will be the added application performance features of Watch4net to help with service delivery.
"Completing the solution with Watch4net will give us sight into application health and performance all the way to the storage layer, allowing us to adhere to stricter SLAs," he says.