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Can Storage Resource Management Save Us From Ourselves? We Quiz 9 SRM Vendors To Find Out.

As companies seek to make the most of IT investments while containing new spending, storage is coming under more scrutiny--and for good reason. Between 33 and 70 cents of every dollar spent on hardware goes to storage, and in most shops we're seeing allocation efficiency hovering at less than 20% of optimum for distributed systems storage. Utilization efficiency--using the right storage in terms of price and performance to host data based on its volatility, access frequency, business value, and other criteria--is in the single-digit percentiles.

And acquisition cost is only 20% of the total cost, according to Gartner. From the perspective of carbon footprint and infrastructure utility costs, storage is rapidly outpacing servers as the biggest user of power in the data center.

Could storage resource management, or SRM, be the key to halting this sprawl? The question has gained new urgency. When times were good and IT found itself short of space, there was a tendency to throw more capacity at the problem. Vendors were only too happy to reinforce this practice. Today, the financial times aren't so good for many industries, and power costs are racking up. It's time for IT to manage storage resources better.

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Given that, we decided to do a sanity check on the state of the SRM software intended to help monitor storage system and interconnect status; automate routine configuration tasks; and, in some cases, facilitate movement of data across the storage infrastructure in accordance with policies.

We invited vendors to respond to a survey and asked what functions a management tool should provide and what criteria IT should use to evaluate SRM products now on the market. We also wanted to discover whether there's data that shows the value of storage resource management in cost savings or operational efficiency. In the early 1990s, analysts had argued that SRM would cut about 40% from storage cost of ownership. Others said a good SRM tool would let a single administrator manage 10 times more capacity than without storage resource management. Could vendors validate, or at least update, these claims?

Thin provisioning, data deduplication, and compression are no substitutes for true storage management.

We also asked what impact virtualization is having on storage--does it facilitate management or create more impediments? And what of the Storage Management Interface-Specification (SMI-S), the one-time darling of the Storage Networking Industry Association, which was touted as the path to storage management nirvana? Has it made any real impact on heterogeneous storage infrastructure management? If not, what hooks are SRM products using to monitor and interact with storage devices?

We received responses from BridgeHead Software, CA, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Network Appliance, Northern, Symantec, and Tek-Tools Software, along with newcomer Olocity. And we sought observations from IT pros who've experienced the pointy end of SRM.

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