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Monitoring and Forecasting Made Easy with SRMs

In our previous article on forecasting data growth, we mentioned how a good data management strategy translates into using IT resources efficiently. This kind of strategy facilitates administration, problem detection, and reduces costs. Forecasting future needs for data is part of that strategy and the more precise forecasting goes, the more room you have to act and avoid unnecessary expenditures. For example, miscalculating your data growth can lead to purchasing equipment way ahead of time, putting pressure on budgets that, in the meantime, could have been invested somewhere else.

In this follow-up article, we are going to introduce some tools that you can use for the purpose of administering capacity: storage resource management software, or SRM. These tools also offer other powerful capabilities such as performance analysis and reporting. We are going to mention two of NetApp’s tools, Active IQ Unified Manager, and OnCommand Insight, plus the open-source, community-backed Grafana tool, finishing with a mention to Cloud Tiering service as an option to use for your forecasting needs.

Storage Resource Managers

An important part of being an IT admin or storage admin is knowing how a network system works, with complete knowledge of its parts and the protocols used to communicate between them. Another important aspect is being able to manage and administer those network nodes easily, effectively, and through a centralized resource, and that is especially true for storage resources, where all the data resides.

Let’s take a quick overview of some tools that will help you in administering your storage resources, including capacity management and forecasting.

NetApp Active IQ Unified Manager

Formerly known as OnCommand Unified Manager, Active IQ Unified Manager allows you to monitor large numbers of systems running NetApp’s ONTAP software. It enables administrators to view everything related to availability, health conditions, performance, and capacity of your ONTAP systems through a single graphical web UI.

Some main key admin actions you can do with Active IQ:

  • Set up various alerts and notifications.
  • Gain visibility of performance statistics with adjustable performance thresholds.
  • Manage data availability and data protection relationships.
  • Generate detailed customized reports.

But how does Active IQ Unified Manager help us with capacity and forecasting related tasks?

Right from the main Overview Dashboard you get a list with volume capacity risks (if any) and their correspondent suggested actions. From there, you can browse to the different storage object pages and check specific storage info for each of them. You can browse on multiple storage object levels such as:

  • Volumes
  • Storage Virtual Machines
  • Clusters
  • Aggregates

All of them will give you specific capacity related information. Some of them, such as the detailed pages of an aggregate or a volume, will provide you with graphs and history trends as well as volume and aggregate daily growth rates, and a forecast of the number of days it will take until your aggregate and volume storage to become full. Cloud Tiering is not left behind, and you can see specific stats about it on the detailed Cluster and Aggregate pages. On the detailed Volume page, you can find information about the associated tiering policy.

Keep in mind that this tool only applies for NetApp ONTAP storage systems though, which leaves out environments that are not running NetApp systems at all. Let’s take a look at the next one which supports multi-vendor and hybrid environments.

OnCommand Insight (OCI)

OnCommand Insight (OCI) is a really powerful tool designed by NetApp to provide intelligent operations and business insights across the enterprise. The software enables rationalization and optimization of costs, reduces risks, and provides advanced troubleshooting and analytics across the multi-vendor hybrid cloud environments. It works around four main areas across all the monitored environment:

  • Monitor SLAs to quickly identify when performance policy limits are being violated.
  • Predictive analytics that dramatically facilitate troubleshooting the root cause of a problem across all the different multi-vendor and public cloud environments.
  • Optimize storage usage by showing exactly how your IT infrastructure is being used and helps you reclaim under utilized resources across different storage tiers, thus bringing down your total costs.
  • Customized reports from data stored in a multidimensional data warehouse for querying and analysis.

The reporting capability of OnCommand Insight includes trending reports with historical data, consumption analyses and, most importantly, forecasting reports. In its latest version, OCI includes reported capacity information as time series data which will also improve forecasting predictions.

Grafana

Grafana is an open source tool that specializes in the visualization of time series data. What this means is that you are able to create dashboards composed of different panels for which you can configure query editors to show the different metrics of the data sources. It gives you a lot of room to play with visualization by unifying multiple different resources together, allowing you to understand the data, define alerts as needed, and share data and dashboards across teams.

Grafana is generally used as a visualization tool, since it takes panels and dashboards to a new level, while time series data collection is usually left for a data fetcher such as Graphite. Using them together, you can configure forecasting capacity graphs to predict storage resource consumption rates which will show up a nice personalized panel in Grafana.

NetApp has its own plugin for Grafana named NetApp Harvest, which collects all performance metrics from ONTAP storage systems, plus capacity metrics from Active IQ Unified Manager. Those metrics are delivered to a customer provided time-series database, such as Graphite, for long retention. Rich template-driven dashboards are provided as well so you can quickly and easily monitor your NetApp storage systems from there.

Forecasting Data Usage with NetApp Cloud Tiering

As we saw in our previous article, the Cloud Tiering service for NetApp AFF and SSD-backed FAS systems helps admins when forecasting storage space needs by enabling them to purchase hardware not when they need it but when they want it. Cloud Tiering gives you the choice of not having to commit capital upfront and expands the usage of high-performance SSDs with practically no impact on latency. Automatically tiering cold data from your AFF or SSD-backed FAS systems to the public cloud also provides organizations with these advantages:

  • Savings of up to 40% in TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) with your on-prem system.
  • An easy first step to your hybrid-cloud strategy.
  • Maximizing ROI (Return of Investment) over your AFF or SSD-backed FAS.

With tools such as Active IQ Unified Manager and OnCommand Insight you can monitor your tiered data and take action in case there are further savings you can have by tiering cold data to the cloud.

Conclusion

Using the tools covered in this post makes it easy to monitor all your NetApp and multi-vendor, hybrid environments and makes forecasting storage capacity needs in such a diverse setup an easy-to-undertake task. Whenever an SRM tool alerts you about the need to expand or forecasts such need for a NetApp ONTAP system, Cloud Tiering can bring you a cost-effective, intelligent solution to move cold data to the cloud and free high-performance tiers for other workloads.

Check out more information about NetApp’s Cloud Tiering service here and start a free trial today.

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