Once upon a time, storage management was a labor-intensive job. In 1981, I was one of a dozen storage managers whose sole job was to ensure access to data for end users on a large (at the time) mainframe system that supported hundreds of development engineers. Fast forward to 2020 and, despite the astronomical spike in the amount of data that needs to be managed, it is rare indeed to find such large teams dedicated to storage management. Why? Storage technology has come a long way. While this can partly be attributed to the evolution of data storage hardware from magnetic tape to hard disk drives to solid state drives to flash memory storage devices to cloud-based storage, the primary reason is actually software. Storage management software, which has been in continuous development since the late 1970s, has managed to automate virtually everything.
The Evolution of Data Storage Software: From Full Teams to Full Automation
Today’s storage management platforms can be found far and wide, and automate much of the work once performed manually by storage managers. In pretty much any data center, you will now find a best-of-breed storage system that offers all this and more: chnologies realized that they had a great asset in PowerProtect DD Series Appliances and updated the solution, not in name only, but hardware, capabilities, and simplified pricing. Here are some great things about the updates:
- Automated data backup and restore capabilities, including what is required for disaster recovery.
- Automated movement of primary data to an appropriate tier of hardware based on factors including performance needs, date/time of last use, projected future use, importance of the data to the business, and the need to free up space.
- Automated implementation of data reduction technologies such as real-time compression and deduplication.
- Automated data protection technologies like encryption and quarantine.
- Integration with common operating systems’ programming interfaces for ease of implementation.
- Sophisticated reporting programs which give storage management the insights needed to greatly improve productivity.
- The possibility of uninterrupted access to data.
- Role-based hierarchy that allows for data access by appropriate persons or applications only.
Today, storage management is something customers just assume is provided and would not dream of doing without. It is part and parcel of what simply must be there to accommodate daily requirements for creation of and access to data.
IBM Storage Management Software
Storage management functionality from IBM comes in different forms. First, there is dedicated software to manage volumes and data sets, like data facility hierarchical storage manager (DFHSM) and IBM Spectrum Protect. Their core role is to execute storage management functions like data backup/restore or hierarchical storage management (migrate/recall). These products, or similar competitive products, have become nearly universal in their use.
Embedded Storage Management
In addition, storage management functionality is increasingly being embedded in IBM storage solutions. In fact, sophisticated storage management capabilities are present and nearly ubiquitous today in practically any storage product. Integrated storage management function is perhaps THE way that products differentiate themselves from competitors these days. Some IBM examples of embedded storage management functions include:
- EasyTier. This is automated, real-time balancing of I/O across physical resources managed by IBM’s Spectrum Virtualize, FlashSystem, and DS8000 product lines. Combined with DRAID, it is a means of keeping hot spots (which rob performance) from occurring and optimizing storage system performance autonomically.
- Copy services. This can take the form of synchronous or asynchronous replication of data within a storage system (Flashcopy) or between storage systems (Remote Mirror and Copy). Copy services generally support operational backup and disaster recovery but can also be used to move data temporarily or permanently. These capabilities exist in all current IBM enterprise disk and virtual tape products, including DS8000, FlashSystem, Spectrum Virtualize, and TS7700.
- Data reduction technologies. Deduplication and real-time compression of primary data are storage management capabilities which reduce the amount of physical storage space for data. They can be found in the Spectrum Virtualize and FlashSystem families of products.
- Encryption. This is quite simply a blanket data protection function and is offered optionally with all current IBM enterprise storage products.
A final category of storage management software that bears mentioning is reporting software. IBM Storage Insights does the heavy lifting in terms of sifting through historic or real-time metadata regarding the performance and capacity of storage systems. It boils down impossible amounts of metadata, enabling IT teams to:
- improve capacity planning.
- increase storage utilization.
- enhance performance monitoring.
- reduce costs.
- simplify reporting.
- troubleshoot problems faster.
With all these improvements in storage management software (and hardware too) over the past four decades, the work done by a dozen dedicated storage managers can now be almost entirely automated with the right IBM products. That’s progress!
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