By Stetson Webster, Sr. Storage Engineer and Architect, NetApp IT
In the past few years, NetApp has been growing by leaps and bounds. Our IT team has been working hard to meet the needs of its clients, but we found ourselves lapsing into firefighting mode. We knew this state of affairs had to change and we had to be able to more proactively manage our IT capacity and resources.
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We installed NetApp’s OnCommand Insight (OCI) storage management software to see how it could help us. OCI is designed to answer four simple questions: What storage do we have? How are we using it? How much does it cost? What do we need for the future?
We knew OCI could help us maximize our current storage utilization and simplify the process of determining future needs. The question was: Could OCI really deliver on its promise to help us manage our storage as an end-to-end service and integrate it into our entire IT service-delivery chain?
Aerial view of storage
After we installed and began using OCI straight out of the box (yep, no customization!), we became its biggest fan. OCI delivered an aerial view of our entire storage infrastructure, including our NetApp ONTAP systems, NetApp E-Series systems, and the cloud. We could see the relationships between our assets and then correct operational gaps. We could connect the data across our network—regardless of platform or location—and optimize it to specific performance criteria.
We immediately made significant operational improvements. OCI discovered detailed information about our installed storage devices so we could detect vulnerabilities in our network. OCI identified underused and orphaned assets for re-use and consolidation. It helped us define policies and establish best practices for redundancy and sharing across the network. We could closely monitored policy-level violations that resulted in service quality issues and outages.
We identified three key performance indicators (KPIs) we could look at weekly to help us address issues before they occurred. This included node utilization (CPU usage), aggregate utilization (how hard the disks are working), and aggregate space (how much storage space is being used). These three metrics help us more efficiently manage our storage environment.
Top Five Benefits
In one fell swoop, OCI moved IT from firefighter to proactive mode. Since its implementation, we’ve seen five key benefits to our organization:
IT service-delivery chain integration. OCI gives us end-to-end visibility of our IT service-delivery chain so applications can be traced to a business service.
Workload rebalancing. We can evaluate our storage against three IT capabilities management objectives: avoid purchasing new storage, avoid running out of storage, and properly anticipate demand. From this, we can make more informed decisions about rebalancing workloads.
Executive dashboards. OCI compiles metrics from any location or system, and aggregates the data at the system, tier, cost, location, and regional level. We can create high-level executive dashboards for strategic decision-making as well as storage management reports for ongoing operations. Ad-hoc queries help us monitor real-time issues.
Proactive approach. OCI is critical in helping us prioritize our tasks against goals and better manage our storage resources against IT capability management objectives.
Self-service portal. NetApp IT employees can now access storage performance reports via a self-service portal linked in our Configuration Management Database (CMDB). They no longer have to call the storage IT team with performance issues, which frees up our team to work on other things.
Proactive beats reactive
OCI’s most unexpected benefit has been the change to our IT culture. We spend less time troubleshooting and more time working on proactive, value-add services. And we are just getting started. We are now looking at how we can use OCI’s other features, including the ‘what if’ feature to test future scenarios.
What IT storage management issues do you struggle with? What benefits have you found in using OCI? Any unique uses for OCI that we haven’t tried?
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The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to view learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.