How can businesses improve their storage performance?
Best storage monitoring software + SAN performance tools
Businesses typically rely on network storage facilities, either NAS (Network Attached Storage) or SAN (Storage Area Network). These can be more difficult to manage and monitor than simpler storage infrastructures. In many cases, especially for larger businesses, storage performance monitoring software is a must. In this article, I will focus on SAN. I'll discuss how they work, the importance of monitoring SAN performance, and what software I have chosen for SAN storage monitoring.
SAN vs. NAS
Most businesses use networked storage solutions, which come in two forms:
- Network-attached storage (NAS)
- Storage Area Network (SAN)
NAS is usually a hardware device connected through a local area network (LAN). In contrast, SANs use fiber optic links to connect many storage devices so that each device can share its data with other devices.
A SAN is a high-speed storage network that allows storage traffic to move separately from the rest of the LAN traffic, thereby improving performance and keeping network availability high. The purpose of a SAN is to increase the efficiency, which it does by consolidating storage in one place, rather than leaving it spread across the network. Since each storage device is connected to a single network, it appears to users that each storage device is being accessed locally.
A SAN system assigns "logical unit numbers" or LUNs to each subsection of a storage device. This way you can keep track of how the storage is organized and allocated. A LUN could represent a storage disk, or it could be assigned to a group of disks known as a "redundant array of independent disks," also known as RAID. RAIDs store copies of data. So if one device fails, you have backups on all the other devices.
While NAS is cheaper and easier to set up, SAN systems are much more powerful due to the use of fiber optic channels and as such are often used in large companies and managed by an IT professional. For large companies, fast file access is crucial, as is the ability to take the pressure off the LAN. In addition, a SAN is easily expandable and can be virtualized, which allows the network to scale quickly as the business grows.
What is SAN performance monitoring?
Managing and monitoring SAN performance is critical in an enterprise environment because without carefully monitored SAN metrics, you could miss out on the gains in efficiency and performance noted above. With SAN storage management software, you can track key metrics such as latency, oversubscription, and RAID allocation to ensure that your SAN is working properly.
- latency: Changes in latency and slowdowns can indicate storage drive failure. A monitoring and management tool can help you manage bandwidth to and from storage devices to avoid bottlenecks.
- Oversubscription: A common storage practice is called "thin provisioning" or "oversubscription," which involves reporting more virtual storage than actual physical storage. This can help improve the capacity and performance of networks and infrastructures if properly managed. Storage capacity management tools will help you minimize the risk of oversubscription.
- RAID assignment: In enterprise storage setups with potentially thousands of LUNs, SAN storage management software is key to effective allocation, organization, and reporting. A good tool will ensure that both LUNs and RAIDs are properly provisioned in a configuration that is suitable for efficient storage management.
Best storage monitoring tools
When looking at storage monitoring tools, free options may seem like good deal. However, given the critical role storage plays in a business, it's important to look at the best tools, not just the cheapest. I've gathered the best storage monitoring software on the market. Most offer free trials. I recommend you try these out before making a purchase.
SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor
SolarWinds® Storage Resource Monitor (SRM) provides real-time monitoring of SAN and NAS on devices from various manufacturers, including NetApp, Hitachi, Dell EMC, HP, Huawei and IBM. This multi-vendor capability is a huge benefit: instead of using separate IBM and EMC storage monitoring tools, for example, you get a detailed, unified view of all of your storage metrics, including LUNs, RAIDs, and storage arrays, for all of your devices.
In terms of using it as a SAN monitor, SRM sends alerts for overloaded LUNs or RAID groups and shows you the space consumption on storage arrays. These features can help you identify capacity problems before they become major performance problems. In addition, the full application stack view allows you to see this performance at all levels, including virtual memory and applications. This allows you to locate and fix problems across your infrastructure instead of looking layer-by-layer. You can try SolarWinds SRM free of charge for up to 30 days.
Nagios provides high quality monitoring of SAN setups and infrastructures by monitoring the capacity of your hard drives and directories, RAID status, and more. It is available in two versions to help you manage and monitor your SAN setup: Nagios XI and Nagios Core. These universal monitoring tools include SAN performance software as opposed to standalone SAN storage monitoring tools. Nagios Core is the free offering, while Nagios XI is the enterprise standard performance monitoring tool.
Nagios XI includes network and infrastructure monitoring for applications, services and other system measurement data as well as automatic capacity planning for the storage infrastructure. As a SAN monitor, it allows you to track performance so you can troubleshoot storage problems before they affect your end users.
One of the best things about Nagios is its easy-to-use and attractive dashboards and graphics. However, the depth of information about the storage infrastructure is limited compared to dedicated storage monitoring tools.
ManageEngine OpManager integrates the functions of an older tool, OpStor. OpStor was previously ManageEngine's offering for managing storage devices, including host servers, bus adapter cards, storage arrays, and fabric switches. These functions have now been integrated into a plug-in for OpManager.
Like Nagios, OpManager is general network monitoring software. With OpStor you can monitor the performance of your storage devices. It provides monitoring of RAIDs to determine capacity, configuration and performance metrics. In addition, controllers and their status, LUNs, volumes and virtual disk groups are examined, and statistics and reporting data are provided for each of them.
It can also automatically discover the tape libraries on SAN and NAS networks for status, health and errors. The reporting function provides historical storage data to help you predict potential capacities and plan their housing.
PowerAdmin Storage Monitor
PowerAdmin Storage Monitor is a lighter product than the above offerings from SolarWinds and Nagios. It provides disk space monitoring, directory change monitoring, a volume cataloger, file size monitoring, and user and directory quota monitoring.
All of these monitoring tools also produce accompanying reports that show you when files and directories were last accessed, which users are using the most disk space, whether you have duplicate files on your system, and which files are the largest. These tools and reports can help you optimize and organize your storage systems for better performance.
The main focus of the PA Storage Monitor is on file management rather than system or network management. However, if you have a lot of data to manage, this can be a useful addition to a more complete tool.
IntelliMagic Vision for SAN
IntelliMagic Vision for SAN is focused storage monitoring with an emphasis on SAN monitoring. It monitors SAN storage from multiple vendors as well as VMware storage settings and the storage structure. The highlights include impressive visualizations and graphics as well as a central dashboard that provides information about the entire storage infrastructure at a glance.
eG Innovations eG Enterprise
Like most of the products on this list, eG Enterprise is a comprehensive network monitoring tool with SAN storage monitoring capabilities. It provides performance monitoring of the entire infrastructure, which can be used to determine whether network or performance problems are due to physical components, storage, bandwidth problems, applications, servers, or virtual machines. It describes itself as a "proactive monitoring tool" designed to aid in the early detection of problems. It primarily focuses on alerts and reports, but it also provides analytics to help you troubleshoot problems.
Advantages of storage management tools
As networks and devices become more complex, organizations must effectively manage storage. Without proper management tools, you run the risk of running out of disk space when you need it most and you could run into functionality issues.
I recommend using a tool like SolarWinds SRM because of its robust reporting capability and the option to generate both predefined and custom reports on data such as LUN performance, capacity summaries, memory usage, and information about your hardware. This is especially useful when you want to forecast your storage capacity.
If you work at home or manage the network for a small business, you can also take advantage of a free tool from SolarWinds called the Storage Performance Monitor (SPM). SPM offers some of the same features as SRM: it enables multi-vendor storage array support and storage I / O hotspot detection. However, for a large company, SRM is the way to go because SPM doesn't provide all of the tools you need to manage a large storage infrastructure.
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