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Virtualized Data Centers Need Storage Array Management Software to Complement vCenter

As more organizations virtualize their server environment, they face two challenges: centrally managing both the growing number of their virtual machines (VMs) and the growing number of storage arrays that host these VMs. On the server virtualization side, VMware vCenter has emerged as a central console that first detects and then centrally manages VMware VMs across their environment. On the storage side, similar storage array management software like NEC Storage Manager is now available to complement VMware vCenter as it discovers NEC D, M and S Series storage arrays and then administers their advanced storage software features.

Many organizations are familiar with and likely use VMware vCenter to centrally manage the VMs in their environment. Using vCenter, administrators only need to log in to it to centrally manage VMs across the enterprise as opposed to having to log in to each ESX host.

However as organizations grow the number of ESX servers in their environment the number of external storage arrays is growing as well. As this occurs, organizations are looking to vCenter to manage them as well.

While this can be done, vCenter can at best be used in a limited fashion. Most storage arrays only integrate with vCenter at a rudimentary level. This limits vCenter’s management abilities to doing only storage array detection, monitoring and maybe some basic storage array management tasks (LUN masking, creating volumes.)

This is inadequate for what organizations today require. They instead need a more robust management console to ensure that the advanced features found on today’s storage arrays are centrally accessible and manageable so they can be effectively utilized.

This advanced storage software management functionality is what NEC Storage Manager provides for NEC storage arrays. In the same way that VMware vCenter centrally discovers, monitors and manages VMware VMs, NEC Storage Manager Suite complements vCenter by providing like functionality for NEC D, M and S Series storage arrays.

Once these arrays are under the control of NEC Storage Manager, administrators may then use its console to perform routine storage management tasks on any of them such as:

  • Creating volumes
  • Assigning volumes to specific hosts
  • Setting LUN security
  • Verifying multi-pathing is properly configured and check its status
  • Setting and monitoring storage array alerts

But more importantly organizations may use NEC Storage Manager to capitalize on the advanced storage software features available on NEC storage arrays. These include array-based snapshots, array-to-array replication and performance monitoring and management that have been available on NEC arrays for some time but are often underutilized or ineffectively used by enterprises.

While this is attributable to a number of factors, this underutilization may be coming to an end as NEC Storage Manager frees enterprises to tap into the latent value of its advanced storage array features. Among these features that are available on NEC storage arrays, there are three that enterprises will likely want to utilize in their virtualized environment:

  • Array-based snapshots. Server virtualization creates an opportune time for organizations to update their backup strategies and array-based snapshots are becoming the first line of defense for data protection. Using NEC Storage Manager, enterprises can centrally configure snapshots on any NEC storage array for any application server (virtualized or physical) that has data residing on them.

To ensure the snapshots are recoverable, NEC provides hooks into file systems and Microsoft SQL Server databases. Application consistent snapshots may then be scheduled using NEC Storage Manager to shorten backup windows and remove the overhead of backup from VMware ESX hosts.

  • Performance monitoring.  Monitoring storage array performance is becoming an imperative to effectively pinpointing and troubleshooting virtualized applications that access multiple storage arrays. Using NEC’s Performance Monitor feature, which is part of NEC Storage Manager, enterprises can proactively take steps to identify the source of the problem, quickly isolate disk drives that are “hot” or network ports that are congested and take action to resolve the issue.
  • Array-based replication. Whether the disaster is small or large, enterprises increasingly want the flexibility to recover applications more quickly at another site, especially as they virtualize their application and centralize their data on these arrays. Meeting this objective requires that data is regularly replicated offsite and the replication process managed appropriately.

Using NEC Storage Manager, enterprises can take advantage of the replication software available on NEC’s storage arrays, centrally configure NEC’s replication software and then monitor and manage this ongoing replication between arrays.

Enterprise administrators love how VMware vCenter centralizes the discovery, monitoring and management of VMware VMs. But as they grow accustomed to its functionality, they are beginning to look for its storage equivalent so they can also centrally manage their storage arrays in the same way.

NEC Storage Manager answers this call as it enables enterprises to move from a micro to a macro approach in managing their NEC storage arrays
. By providing a central management console that discovers, monitors and manages NEC D, M and S series storage arrays, enterprises get more than single pane of glass from which to manage storage software features on NEC storage arrays. They can begin to confidently implement NEC’s advanced performance monitoring, replication and snapshot features so they can manage and scale their backend NEC storage infrastructure as easily as their virtualized one.

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Jerome M. Wendt

About Jerome M. Wendt

President & Lead Analyst of DCIG, Inc. Jerome Wendt is the President and Lead Analyst of DCIG Inc., an independent storage analyst and consulting firm. Mr. Wendt founded the company in September 2006.

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