Software tools that provide storage and data protection analysis are very useful. They can help inventory, monitor and bring to your attention problems in the environment. Typically there are two challenges that I see with these tools however. First, they don't provide recommendations on what to do about a problem and they don't help you prioritize and organized your addressing of the problem.The best way to describe the first problem of not providing recommendations on how to address an issue is that these tools will tell you that the patient is bleeding but they won't tell you where or how to suture the wound. For example, they may tell you that certain backup jobs are taking longer to complete than normal but won't tell you potential reasons why. Some won't even report the anomaly, you have to manually figure that out by analyzing trending data.
Storage management and data protection management tools should automatically analyze trending information and alert you to changes in the environment or its processes. When something is wrong these tools should interact with a knowledge base of some sort to help give recommendations on what to do to fix the problems that are being identified. One of the best solutions for this is interaction with an online community that uses the tool. I've seen several where a user can post in a forum what their storage management tool is telling them and then users can provide advice on what they should do about it.
The second problem deals with the reality that most IT administrators don't have the luxury of scheduling time to deal with problems in their day and that most problems come in waves when you have the least time to fix them. I'd like to see storage management and data protection analysis tools move to address this, providing organizational help to the IT administrator. Imagine being able to log in to a console and have the system guide you through what you should do each day. It could have you address problems that are affecting SLAs first and address more minor problems second. When there is available time in the day the software could even provide you with tasks to focus on that are not causing failures but tasks that are impacting performance and could lead to future failures. Think about it, a tool that helps you to be proactive instead of reactive.
Progress is being made along these fronts. There are a few tools now that are comparing storage or data protection failures to their affect on SLAs which helps greatly with prioritizing failed tasks. The next step is helping guide the IT administrator through their day.
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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.