The Challenge of IT Infrastructure Resource Management

Leveraging various tools, technologies, and techniques is key to enabling a green and virtual data center

March 26, 2009

4 Min Read
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Part five in a series. Greg Schulz is the founder of StorageIO and the author of The Green and Virtual Data Center.

Leveraging various tools, technologies, and techniques to address various pain points and business challenges is key to enabling a green and virtual data center. Best practices, people, processes, and procedures combine with technology tools, hardware, software, networks, services, and facilities to enable a virtual data center. It is important to understand how all these elements coupled with existing and emerging technologies can be applied to improve IT service delivery in a cost-effective and energy-efficient manner. All of this together allows the data center to meet service level requirements while sustaining business growth.

Infrastructure resource management (IRM) is the collective term that describes the best practices, processes, procedures, and technology tools to manage IT data center resources. IRM has a focus across multiple technology domains (applications, servers, networking, storage, and facilities) to address effective and maximum resource usage to deliver a given level of application service or functionality. IRM focuses on processes, procedures, hardware, and software tools that facilitate application and data management tasks. Although there can be areas of overlap, the aim of IRM is to deliver application services and information to meet business service requirement objectives while addressing performance, availability, capacity, and energy (PACE) and power, cooling, floor space, and environmental (PCFE) requirements in a cost-effective manner.

Common IRM activities involved with provisioning and managing IT resources include change control and configuration management, such as making updates to business continuity and disaster recovery plans and documents, or validation of configuration settings to avoid errors. Other change control- and configuration management-related tasks include notification of changes and interdependencies to various systems or IT resources, fallback and contingency planning, maintaining templates, blueprints, run-books, and guides for configuration, as well as change and configuration testing and coverage analysis.

Another IRM task involves configuration of physical resources, including server and operating system or virtual machine setup, networking and I/O configuration, storage system RAID, data protection, and security along with storage allocation, including logical unit number (LUN) creation, mapping, and masking. Other configuration and resource allocation IRM activities include ongoing physical and virtual software patch and update management, high availability and failover configuration, network zoning, routing, and related security tasks as well as cabling and cable management.Data protection and security are important IRM tasks to ensure that information is available when needed while also safely secured from various threat risks. Protecting data involves logical and physical security, including encryption and authentication along with ensuring that copies of data exist. For example, using snapshot, replication, and backup of data to meet service objectives, including recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO). Another dimension of IRM activities across servers, storage, networks, and facilities is monitoring, managing, analyzing, and capacity planning. These tasks involve resource usage monitoring, accounting, event notification, and reporting, along with determining what resources can be consolidated and which ones need scaling to boost performance, capacity, or availability.

A good time to rethink data protection and archiving strategies of applications and systems data is when server consolidation is undertaken. Instead of simply moving the operating system and associated applications from a "tin"-wrapped physical server to a "software"-wrapped virtual server, consider how new techniques and technologies can be leveraged to improve performance, availability, and data protection. For example, an existing server with agent-based backup software installed sends data to a backup server over the LAN for data protection. However, when it is moved to a virtual server, the backup can be transitioned to a LAN-free and server-free backup server. Thus, LAN and other performance bottlenecks can be avoided.

With a continuing industry trend toward using disk-to-disk (D2D) backup and data protection for more frequent and timely data protection, tape is finding a renewed role in larger, more infrequent backups for large-scale data protection in support of long-term archiving and data preservation. For example, D2D, combined with compression and de-duplication disk-based solutions, is used for local, daily, and recurring backups. Meanwhile, weekly or monthly full backups are sent to tape to free disk space as well as address PCFE concerns.

There is no time like the present to reassess, rebuild, and reconfigure your data protection environment, particularly if you are planning on or have already initiated a server virtualization initiative. Virtual server environments require real and physical data protection.

Greg Schulz is the founder of StorageIO, an IT industry research and consulting firm. He has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and capacity planner for various IT organizations, and also has held positions with industry vendors. He is author of the new book The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC) and of the SNIA-endorsed book Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)".InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of green IT strategies. Download the report here (registration required).0

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