Storage is a precious resource to any business. In this era of big data, enterprises need and rely on storage more than ever. Consequently, storage environment administration has become an important aspect of many system administrators jobs. Whether monitoring is done to ensure flawless operation or to avoid running into capacity issues, good tools are required to do a good job. But with so many different products and software available, picking the best one can be a daunting task. We’ve done part of the work for and we’ve built a list of some of the best storage resource monitoring tools we could find.
To ensure we’re all on the same page when we start looking at the available tools, we’ll begin with some background information. We’ll try to better explain what storage monitoring is. Actually, we’ll tell you what we think it is and what it is in the context of evaluating tools. We’ll then briefly pause and discuss the two main types of storage resource commonly found today: SAN and NAS. We’ll do our best to explain how they are different but in terms of their operation and their monitoring requirements. After that, we’ll briefly discuss the main components commonly found in storage monitoring tools. And finally, we’ll review a few of the very best tools we could find.
A Few Words 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 – What Are They And What’s The Difference?
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 other have local disks for storing their OS and used SAN disks to store data.
Components Of Storage 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 Best Storage Monitoring Tools
When searching the market for the best products, we found that there are different types of products available for storage resource monitoring. There are, of course, some true storage resource monitoring platforms. Other available options include all-around monitoring tools, SAN monitoring platforms as well as storage resource management platforms which usually incorporate a monitoring component.
Many network administrators have heard of SolarWinds. The 20-year old company has been making some of the best tools since its inception. Among them, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, the company’s flagship product, is recognized as one of the best SNMP network monitoring platform. But SolarWinds is also famous for its free tools. They are smaller tools that address specific needs of network administrators. An excellent subnet calculator and a simple but efficient TFTP server are two examples of these free tools.
When it comes to storage monitoring, SolarWinds’ offering is called the Storage Resource Monitor. This tool will give you a unified view of the performance of your storage environment with agentless NAS and SAN performance monitoring. It will also monitor volumes, RAID groups, storage pools, disks, anhttps://www.addictivetips.com/go/storage-resource-monitor/d more. The tool can help you to ensure that your storage infrastructure is running at peak performance, thereby preventing—or at least reducing—downtime.
- FREE TRIAL: SOLARWINDS STORAGE RESOURCE MONITOR
- Official download link: https://www.solarwinds.com/storage-resource-monitor
- Unified data storage management system
The tool offers an easy to understand dashboard with views of multiple storage devices from EMC, NetApp, Nimble, INFINIDAT, Pure Storage, and several others.
- Faster time to resolution
The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor storage management features can provide a detailed view into storage arrays, RAID groups, and LUNs. This can help make it easier to identify storage performance issues quickly and fix them faster.
- Resource savings
The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor automatic capacity forecasting feature allows you to save both time and money.
- Informed decision-making
This product’s storage system management reporting features can help you reduce or eliminate assumption-driven decisions. With real data, no more educated guessing.
- End-to-End monitoring
The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor integrates seamlessly with other SolarWinds products to provide a broad and comprehensive picture of your IT environment’s health. The product’s AppStack dashboard will give administrators an instant view into their infrastructure, from application to storage.
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 VM 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 let you assess the health of your entire environment and troubleshoot specific, interrelated problems.
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.
The SolarWinds Storage Resource Monitor is licensed by the total number of physical disks in the arrays it monitors. The license includes the monitoring of physical and virtual servers. Price starts at $2 935 for 25 disks and goes up to almost $ 75K for 5000 disks. Pricing information for larger installations can be obtained from SolarWinds’ sales. If you’d rather try the product before buying it, a free 30-day trial version is available.
2. EMC ControlCenter
EMC—now part of Dell—is one of the best-known names in the SAN market. The EMC ControlCenter is the company’s offering for Storage Resource Management. The management software tool can be used to monitor and analyze SANs. And by SANs, we don’t mean EMC SANs. This is a multi-vendor tool that can monitor and manages storage resources from many manufacturers. It was built to meet the demands of the cloud computing era and it enables enterprises to enhance performance and improve storage utilization.
The EMC ControlCenter incorporates several modules, each providing specific functionality. The ControlCenter Performance Manager can help you identify and solve infrastructure performance issues. Using it one can collect, correlate, and graphically present performance information from virtually provisioned servers to virtually provisioned storage.
Another module is the ControlCenter StorageScope. This one provides integrated capacity utilization reporting and trend analysis across heterogeneous storage infrastructures. It can be used to manage your return on assets used, plan for future capacity, and simplify storage inventory management.
Finally, the ControlCenter SAN Manager provides a single interface for managing your storage area network. Ir will let you discover, monitor, manage, and configure your complex heterogeneous environments faster and easier.
3. Dell EqualLogic SAN HQ
The Dell EqualLogic SAN HQ platform is actually a SAN monitoring tool. As such, it will monitor storage resources and their performance as long as they are SAN-based and running on Dell EqualLogic hardware. But if you are a Dell EqualLogic user, it is a great product.
This platform offers centralized event monitoring, historical performance reporting, alerting, and capacity trending. It can let its users monitor multiple resources from a single point. The software runs in the background as a service on a Windows server and a client application is used to interact with the tool. The publisher claims that the product offers intelligent GUI navigation. Concretely, this means that the user interface is easy to understand and easy to navigate. Any administrator should have no problem finding its way around the tool and getting the exact information he’s after.
Other important features of the Dell EqualLogic SAN HQ platform include performance analysis of a wide range of available metrics, data activity analysis, and alerting with email notifications. Another of the product’s strong suit is its comprehensive and customizable reporting engine. And finally, the update notifications will let you know about any available updates to your SAN software, drivers, and hardware.
4. eG Enterprise
eG Innovation specializes in performance monitoring tools. Its flagship product is called eG Enterprise. It is a total performance management solution that provides automated IT monitoring, diagnosis, and reporting to troubleshoot application slowdowns, user experience issues, network outages, virtualization bottlenecks, server failures, storage hot spots, and more.
eG Enterprise uses both agent-based and agentless technologies to monitor the health and performance of your whole IT infrastructure from application code to hardware across any type of environment: physical, virtual, cloud or hybrid. The tool uses a patented performance correlation and root cause diagnosis technology. This simplifies performance troubleshooting and can result in faster problem resolution and increased operational efficiency.
When it comes to storage monitoring, eG Enterprise offers unified monitoring, diagnosis, and reporting of your storage infrastructure. From a central web console, administrators can monitor any storage device and can correlate storage performance with the other parameters. Using this tool, they can detect and resolve situations when storage issues cause performance bottlenecks.
This list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t include a free tool. Stor2RRD is precisely that, a free storage and LAN performance monitoring platform for equipment from most major manufacturers. It offers you an end-to-end view of your storage environment which can include LAN and SAN. It can be used to predict utilization bottlenecks in your environment, potentially saving you money.
Using Stor2RRD, administrators can generate policy-based alerts. The tool also allows you to observe the overall health status of your systems and provide capacity reports and forecasting data. This product will also provide historical reporting in several formats (graph, CSV, PDF, XLS), alerting based on performance thresholds and event monitoring.
The tool is free software, released under the terms of the GNU General Public License. However, professional support can be purchased from the software’s publisher, giving you the advantage of free software as well as the professional support you might need. There is also a cloud-based, software as a service option that can be purchased.