Web-based Management: Storage Resource Manager

Hands On: HighGround’s Storage Resource Manager V2.0 for Windows NT

HighGround Systems Inc.’s Storage Resource Manager (SRM) V2.0 is a Web-based reporting application for managing the capacity, utilization and availability of distributed disks, partitions, directories, files and even RAID subsystems within Windows NT Server environments. SRM also provides the ability to easily and quickly set user disk space quotas and free space thresholds, as well as offering SNMP- or e-mail-based alert mechanisms when any of these values are exceeded.

A complete installation is composed of three elements: the SRM Server, Agent and Browser. Server hardware requirements are limited to a 233-MHz system with 64 MB of RAM (128 MB recommended) and a CD-ROM drive. SRM requires 15 MB for the application, 2 MB for each SRM Agent computer, 3 MB for each disk partition on Agent computers, plus 2 MB per user with an account on an SRM Agent computer.

Before installing the SRM Server module, a user must have the following software in place: Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 3, Remote Procedure Call (RPC), TCP/IP, Netscape V3.01 or Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.02 or later versions with Cookie acceptance enabled, and Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) 4.0.

We installed SRM on a 300-MHz Pentium-based server and various X86-compatible Agent stations. After completing a lengthy installation checklist, the actual installation process went smoothly. An option on the setup menu checks that all the prerequisites are in place for the installation, and reports specifically on any shortcomings. We also successfully completed a remote agent installation process over the network using both Symantec Corp.'s PC Anywhere and Computer Associates Int’l Inc./Avalan's Remotely Possible, both of which HighGround suggests.

SRM's main screen offers several choices, including configuration of groups, alerts, scans, licensing and disk health options, the display of various alert reports, and the display of reports of network storage resources. This last choice is offered in four separate tabs in its Web browser-based interface, offering views of computers, disks or partitions within the domain, as well as storage consumption by individual user. We found this to be a very intuitive and logical front end that well suits the need to drill down to specific usage or big picture views, and to view such information across time or geographic boundaries.

For our test, we set out to create arbitrary groups of storage users on the basis of job function, and then look at disk health, get an overview of free space consumption rates on our various disks, and finally perform trend analyses of used files. This information was helpful in avoiding hard-disk failures, planning growth capacity and backup needs, and optimizing load balancing by evaluating the throughput of critical files.

Users group storage resources in the Options/Groups view by defining and naming a new group and then selecting all the partitions you want to belong to that group. As long as you are familiar with the network in which SRM is being used, the process is simple.

In our test, we set usage quota alerts very near the actual usage, and then pushed the Agents in that group past the limit. The alert was immediately generated to the administrator account as promised. Viewing the rate at which disk space is being consumed across the network or by specific PCs or partitions is a good foundation for capacity planning.

The Managed Disks report area offers information on disk name, capacity, defects, make and model, and number of managed disks in the entire network. Here we could easily view a variety of reports on the physical health of any particular drive, including any growth in defects from the drive manufacturer's original shipment date. This tool is invaluable in pre-empting disastrous drive crashes and resulting data loss, or isolating intermittent access problems on the network.

Perhaps the most valuable tool for network performance optimization via load balancing is within the Managed Partition reports area. Viewing File Access and Modification trend graphs gives a quick snapshot of which machines have the most and least file access activity. With this knowledge, administrators can optimize network performance by migrating share points, data and/or applications to other disks, or migrating disk content via the deployment of additional hardware. These file access reports can be viewed by date, from periods of 1 day and up, so that occasional spikes in usage for things such as end-of-month reports do not lead to misinterpretations of typical demand.

Our biggest hangups with SRM are that it requires at least a 233-MHz processor, which is faster than many Windows NT servers run, and the lack of scalability. While it works well within workgroups, it wasn’t so easy to scale to enterprise management. HighGround, however, promises that will change in a future version.

Storage Resource Manager V2.0
HighGround Systems Inc.
Marlborough, Mass.
(800) 395-9385
www.highground.com
Price: $995 for Network Edition Server; $399 per license for each managed Windows NT Server; $49 for each NT workstation. The Single Server Edition, which can monitor only a single NT Server or Workstation, costs $495.

+ Network management can be performed from a Web browser.
+ E-mail alerts are sent when usage quotas are surpassed.
+ Intuitive front end.
- Lacks scalability that enterprises need.
- Requires at least 233-MHz server.