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SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor – Review 2019

We’re living in an era of big data. Consequently, organizations rely on data storage more than ever. Storage environment management and monitoring have, therefore, become an important part of many system administrators jobs. Fortunately, tools exist to make this an easy task. One such tool is the SolarWinds Storage Resource Manager and we’re about to give you an in-depth review of this full-featured product. No matter why you need a storage monitoring tool (to ensure flawless operation or to avoid running into capacity issues) this great product is almost certain to have something you need.

Before we have a look at the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor, we’ll briefly discuss storage resource monitoring in general. We’ll then briefly pause to explain what the SAN and NAS acronyms mean. The difference is subtle but important. After that, we’ll talk about some of the components typically found in storage monitoring tools. Once we’re all on the same page, we’ll have a detailed look at the product. We’ll present some of the tool’s main features and benefits. Next, we’ll talk about the Orion Platform, the foundation on which the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor rests before we discuss the tool’s requirements and pricing

About Storage Resource Monitoring

Storage monitoring mainly serves two purposes. On one hand, it is used to ensure that your storage environment is running smoothly, that all required volumes are available and that all storage resources are performing within their expected range. On the other hand, another typical use for storage monitoring is capacity planning. We all know that 1) storage is not an infinite resource and 2) one will eventually run out of it. Capacity planning is the act—or should I say art—of making sure we never run out of space.

Monitoring storage for availability is relatively simple. Once a tool is aware of where the storage resources are located and how to access them, it is a trivial task to periodically pool them for availability. Monitoring performance can prove to be a tad more complex. It is not really that complex but it requires that data transfer tests be performed. At first glance, it’s easy to figure that all that’s needed is to time the copy of a known amount of data. The downside of this is that copying any significant amount of data—an amount that is large enough to provide meaningful data—can adversely affect performance. Not only can it skew the measurements but it could also impact regular users.

NAS & SAN – A (Very) Quick Primer

Years ago, the storage scene was very different from today. Data was typically stored on large computers called file servers. They had large disks and could hold a lot of data. Technology evolved and RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) arrays started to appear adding some much-needed protection against disk failure. Today, things have changed quite a bit and most storage needs are addressed using either SAN or NAS technologies.

Let’s start with the NAS technology. NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. In fact, it is not much different from the file servers of yesteryear. It is a special computer that is attached to the network—hence the name—and that offers storage resources to remote computers. Contrary to a file server, they tend to run specialized feature-reduced operating systems and they offer no other service besides storing files. Most of them boast some type of RAID disk controller and they have varying expansion capabilities.

SAN technology—which stands for Storage Area Network, a play on word with Local Area Network—is completely different. A SAN has no processing function. It does nothing but store data. As such, it can’t be used by itself. You can think of a SAN as a bank of external disks for remote computers.

In a SAN environment, servers—be they file servers, database servers or any type of servers—have SAN controllers instead of disk controllers. Those controllers connect—usually via fibre optics cabling—to the SAN. Some SAN-based environments have completely diskless servers while others have local disks for storing their OS and used SAN disks to store data.

Components Storage Resource Monitoring Tools

Every storage monitoring is unique. In fact, every software product is unique. Many are similar but they all have little differences. Each one has specific features that no other has. This is also true for storage monitoring systems. Although each tool review below is widely different from the others, they all share a few common features.

The various components of storage monitoring tools are actually not much different from those of any other type of monitoring tool such as LAN monitoring. In fact, many will use similar technologies such as SNMP to poll the monitored devices. So, the first component of any monitoring tool is its polling engine. It is responsible for connecting to each monitored device and fetches its operational parameters. Some polling engines rely on a local agent running on the monitored system to gather information while others are agentless and use standard protocols like WMI or SNMP.

Another typical component of storage monitoring systems is some sort of database. What use would there be in collecting operational data if it were not kept somewhere? For this function, some systems rely on external databases like Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle or MySQL while others use either their own built-in database or a local flat file.

What good is the collection of operational data is it’s not shown anywhere? This is why some sort of dashboard is another essential component of monitoring systems. Most of them use a web interface and the best ones come with a fully customizable dashboard. Some will even allow different dashboard components for different users.

When a monitored parameter goes out of range or reaches a critical threshold, you most likely want to know about it. Storage monitoring systems typically have some form of alerting component that can flash a message on the dashboard or send a notification via email or SMS messaging. Some will even execute remediation scripts in reaction to events.

The last major component of storage monitoring tools is reporting. Various reports can be made available that show the state of the storage environment to executives or that demonstrate some type of regulatory compliance to the proper authorities.

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor (Free Trial)

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor (SRM) is designed to provide a vendor-agnostic, agentless NAS and SAN performance monitoring, as well as capacity monitoring and forecasting for your storage devices. With it, one can quickly and easily configure a full range of custom and pre-defined alerts and reports to help get a consolidated view of their storage environment. This can, in turn, help prevent downtime and help ensure that storage infrastructures are running at peak performance.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - All Storage

Problems SRM can help you solve

No matter what issues you may be facing, chances are that the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor can help. Here’s a rundown of a few common pain points which the tool can help you address.

  • You have several storage vendors in your data center and no one tool to monitor them
  • You have a manual capacity planning process
  • You recently had to make a last-minute storage purchase
  • You don’t have easy visibility into the information you need to justify new storage investments to management
  • You experience performance issues on end-user applications caused by storage
  • You don’t have the necessary visibility across your infrastructure—from application to storage—to pinpoint the cause and impact of performance issues

What Makes This Product Unique?

  • Unified storage monitoring: One tool can be used for monitoring storage arrays from EMC, NetApp, Dell, Huawei, and others.
  • Resource savings: You can save time and money with the tool’s automated storage capacity planning feature.
  • Faster time to resolution: Having detailed visibility into storage arrays, RAID groups, and LUNs makes it easy to identify storage issues quickly and react faster.
  • Support for informed decisions: This product offers hundreds of out-of-the-box reports that can help eliminate assumption-driven decisions.
  • End-to-end monitoring: As a component of the Orion Platform, it is designed to provide a comprehensive picture of the overall IT health. In addition, the AppStack dashboard can give you an instant view of your infrastructure, from application to storage.

Main Features Of The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor is truly a feature-rich product. It has monitoring (of course) but also capacity planning as well as alerting and reporting, just to name a few. Here’s an overview of some of the most important features of this excellent product.

Unified Storage Monitoring

Understanding the health of your storage devices from different vendors can be challenging. Storage admins need to juggle multiple tools to ensure that the storage devices and systems are all functioning as they should. With a unified storage monitoring tool like the Storage Resource Monitor, you can have visibility into all your storage devices from a single tool. Its home dashboard gives you an at-a-glance view of key storage metrics, such as usable capacity, raw disk summary, and highlights storage with performance risks. It can also provide a list of alerts that need immediate attention and action.

Storage Performance Monitoring

The tool’s primary purpose is to provide SAN and NAS performance monitoring and alerting to help you eliminate performance bottlenecks in your data center. In addition, the unified view into storage performance can help simplify key tasks that are otherwise tedious and complex, including managing storage space consumption on RAID groups, mapping storage volumes back to the host, and understanding how volumes are load balanced across storage arrays. It can help you determine whether all the objects in your storage environment are performing at their best or not. With the help of this tool, you can identify poorly performing LUNs, RAID groups, and disks.

Detailed Dashboards

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor can help you navigate across all layers of storage, including arrays, storage pools, and LUNs. With just one click, you can seamlessly move from one layer to another. Each of these individual storage layers has a detailed dashboard that shows critical metrics indicating performance and health. With these features, you can quickly troubleshoot performance problems by isolating the actual hot spot and reducing unexpected downtime.

Automated Storage Capacity Planning

The storage capacity function in the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor is designed to track usage over time to help identify capacity issues in the array. You can also easily view growth trends and receive a forecasted view of when capacity will be reached. This helps administrators to plan when to add and when to re-allocate capacity. The tool can also reduce the complexity of storage capacity planning in both your virtual and physical infrastructure. Go deeper into the performance of datastores allocated to specific virtual machines in your environment. Trace dynamic relationships from apps, virtual machines, LUNs, pools, and arrays to discover capacity issues and whether the latency is really caused by storage performance. Identify which virtual machines are affected by storage issues, and take necessary steps to proactively prevent virtual machine downtime.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - Capacity Planning

Alerting And Reporting

One of the big advantages of monitoring tools such as this one is how they allow you to stop worrying about your infrastructure, knowing that you will be alerted should anything odd happen. This is why alerting is such an important part of any monitoring tool. Likewise, reporting, while not directly related to the tool’s performance is also important as this is the component that will let you demonstrate that everything is running optimally.

Alerting

This product will allow you to receive alerts about performance issues with your storage devices, LUNs, storage pools/RAID groups, CIFS shares, and more. You can also set thresholds and generate proactive alerts that are customized to your business’s policies for usage and status information.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - Alerting Thresholds

Reporting

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor also provides quick and insightful information on your arrays with pre-built and custom reports. You can customize your reporting parameters to provide useful business insights. Out-of-the-box reports include enterprise capacity summary, RAID/storage pool group utilization, thin provisioning, free LUNS, asset information, and more. Reports can be scheduled, emailed, and even exported as CSV files for further processing using a different tool.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - Reports

Benefits Of The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor

Storage Performance Monitoring

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor lets you view the performance and the status of your storage environment. This can help quickly identify potential issues as well as help you pinpoint which physical or virtual resources are at fault. The tool boasts a full range of both custom and predefined alerts, including metrics such as temperature, fan speed, and power supply status.

Automated Storage Capacity Planning

This tool will let you see growth rates and forecast costs and budgetary requirements. It helps with projecting when capacity will be reached allowing you to avoid outages due to full disks. Its centralized monitoring supports tracking performance over time to identify hot spots, peak hours, and potential outages. The easy-to-configure reporting can be used to show capacity trends across multiple vendors without having to resort to spreadsheets.

Increased Visibility Across Your Storage Infrastructure

The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor displays both physical and virtual components in a unified view—including all related infrastructure—to help you to diagnose performance issues faster and more accurately. When combined with the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, you can also see the storage under your virtual machine infrastructure with links to the LUN view from the cluster, ESX VM, or datastore view.

End-To-End Visibility Of The Application Stack

AppStack is designed to analyze application performance issues and can help you quickly determine the cause (server, virtual infrastructure or storage infrastructure). It will give you complete visibility of storage across all layers, as well as extended visibility into virtualization and application layers. With AppStack in place, you will be able to drill down deeper across layers and instantly identify the problem root cause and take remedial actions.

SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor - AppStack

PerfStack presents cross-stack performance data and metrics across your storage arrays, virtualization, applications, systems, and network systems, enabling them over time. This integrated view may help you to better predict, prioritize, and resolve issues before they impact end-users.

About The Orion Platform

The Orion Platform is a proprietary platform on which many SolarWinds network and systems management software products are built. The platform provides a unified base that allows seamless integration between different products. The main objective of this platform is to facilitate end-to-end IT monitoring with absolute ease. The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor is built on the SolarWinds Orion Platform. As such, you will be able to easily integrate it with other IT management tools from SolarWinds such as the Network Performance Monitor, the Virtualization Manager, the Server & Application Monitor, the Web Performance Monitor, and more.

Benefits Of The Orion Platform

Here are some of the main benefits of using the Orion Platform as the foundation for the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor.

  • End-to-end monitoring of IT infrastructure
  • Single, unified platform supporting the varied needs of multiple IT teams (network, systems, virtualization, etc.)
  • Centralized management and administration
  • Consolidated monitoring data and context across various IT layers
  • Drag-and-discover network performance charts

System Requirements

Like most products based on the Orion Platform, the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor requires two servers in all but the smallest installations. One server hosts the application while the other hosts the SQL database. Although both servers could be virtual and run on a single physical host, the SQL server’s database must reside on a separate, physical drive.

The hardware requirements are relatively complex as they vary according to the size of the installation one is contemplating. Rather than trying to describe every possible use case—and there are quite a few—we prefer to direct you to the SolarWinds website where the requirements are clearly laid out. Optionally, contacting SolarWinds sales would also allow you to ensure you correctly size your servers while accounting for eventual growth.

Pricing

Pricing for the SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor is based on the total number of physical disks you need to monitor. The product is available in nine licensing tiers that support between 25 and 5 000 disks. Prices start at $2 995 for up to 25 sockets. If you need to monitor a very large environment with over 5 000 disks, custom licenses can be arranged by contacting SolarWinds sales. You can also take the product for a test run before purchasing it as a free fully-functional and disk-unlimited 30-day trial is available.

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