Multi-vendor Storage Management with NetApp OnCommand Insight and Workflow Automation

In a world where unrelenting data growth is the new normal, enterprise IT organizations and cloud service providers find themselves in a predicament. New applications are being added faster than old ones are retired; users are becoming increasingly dependent on fast, always-on access to data from their mobile devices; and new business requirements are driving a need for increasingly sophisticated storage systems. As a result, the cost of managing day-to-day storage operations is now increasing faster than the cost of acquiring new storage capacity.


Yet, very few IT organizations have the luxury of controlling operational costs by standardizing on a single storage architecture that can meet all of their diverse requirements. More likely, they are tasked with managing a disparate set of storage systems – selected over time by various IT architects with good intentions, and accumulated through mergers, acquisitions and the consolidation of business units.


The challenge of managing dissimilar storage systems is non-trivial. Rapid provisioning and robust backup and disaster recovery services, among other things, challenge IT’s ability to reduce operational costs and increase agility. Because of this, IT organizations often look to multi-vendor storage management software solutions that promise to increase operational efficiencies and provide relief from their mounting storage management challenges.


The Benefits of Multi-Vendor Storage Management

In order to realize the full benefits of multi-vendor storage management, several key criteria must be met. First, the management tool should provide a single operational view into disparate storage components. In this way, complexity is reduced, not intensified. Next, the functionality of each storage system under management should be enhanced to the fullest extent possible, instead of taking an approach that “dumbs down” storage systems to a lowest common denominator that reduces, rather than increases, functionality. Finally, all-inclusive, policy-based storage workflows should be automated and enforced for routine tasks, such as provisioning and data protection. If these criteria are met, then the IT staff will be able to optimize the entire storage environment, reduce management costs, and gain back time to meet new challenges instead of becoming bogged down with routine storage housekeeping tasks that “keep the lights on” but do little else of value.


NetApp Multi-vendor Storage Management

NetApp provides two unique tools that enable enterprise-class multi-vendor storage management: OnCommand Insight and OnCommand Workflow Automation.


NetApp OnCommand Insight

Monitoring an entire enterprise storage network is the first step in identifying actions that must be taken in order to insure smooth operations. NetApp OnCommand Insight (OCI) provides real-time, multi-vendor, multiprotocol service-level views and analytics for enterprise storage environments.


OCI provides actionable information that can be used by storage teams, effectively integrating storage into the larger IT service-delivery chain. OCI functions as a configuration management system specifically for the storage domain. It sits logically above the device management layer, pulling information from physical and virtual server environments, the storage network, and from storage devices themselves. This information is then analyzed and correlated into service paths, which represent the end-to-end data access between a host or virtual host and a volume.


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The agentless discovery mechanism used by OCI automatically imports information on all infrastructure assets in the storage environment, giving you accurate and real-time visibility of all servers, virtual servers, HBAs, switches, NPVs/access gateways, and storage arrays. On top of basic asset discovery and management, OCI performs service-path correlation so you can see exactly how your storage infrastructure supports key applications and business services. Various attributes of the path (for example, redundancy, response time, and capacity overcommit) can be used to assign a level of service to the end-to-end relationship.


OCI has a policy engine that enables you to create and adhere to standard, repeatable storage architecture and configuration practices across your organization. These policies are set against service path attributes and enforced in real time; you define a desired level of service and the software enables the configuration to comply. As an example, many OCI users set up policies requiring that all production SAN-attached servers have redundant paths to storage. Another example is restricting overcommit ratios on thin-provisioned storage pools for specific applications.


OCI’s policy-based monitoring extends into the performance realm, alerting you when the performance provided by the infrastructure does not comply with the service-level objectives for particular applications. Performance monitoring is done in near real time, at the virtual server/datastore, storage network, and storage volume layers.


OnCommand Workflow Automation

Once service issues are identified by OCI within the storage infrastructure, NetApp OnCommand Workflow Automation (WFA) is used as a framework for automating storage management tasks that enables agility, flexibility, efficiency, and repeatability of best practices. WFA comes with over 50 standard workflows, and predefined, supported base building blocks to allow storage architects to customize and extend the system to suit specific multi-vendor needs.


With WFA, you can automate your current storage processes such as provisioning, migration or decommissioning and automate them using the designer portal. Architects can also design custom workflows in the designer portal, leveraging a library of certified building blocks or script custom workflows since WFA uses PowerShell on the back end. Users can initiate workflows by accessing the execution portal, which also serves as a self-service portal with RBAC.


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WFA also features REST APIs to allow WFA workflows to be triggered from virtually any enterprise orchestration application. You can integrate WFA with 3rd party orchestration tools, such as VMware vCloud Automation Center, VMware vCenter Orchestration, HP Operations Orchestration, and BMC Atrium Orchestration. This allows you to provide self-service at the orchestration layer for seamless service delivery.


NetApp Workflow Automation was designed to provide a deep understanding of the underlying storage architecture and the best practices for deploying storage. Because it also provides a standards-based Web Services interface, and plug-ins for popular orchestration software, WFA allows the higher-level orchestration products to leverage that inherent knowledge with minimum added complexity.


Resource Links

NetApp OnCommand Insight and Workflow Automation provide strong management capabilities in heterogeneous storage environments. Agentless auto-discovery of storage resources, real-time monitoring of the end-to-end storage path, and policy automation with multi-vendor orchestration solutions allows a wide variety of enterprises to operate with agility and efficiency. If you’d like more information on these products, please refer to the links below:


NetApp OnCommand Insight – Document Library

NetApp OnCommand Workflow Automation – Setup Guide 


10/16/2014 - Edited blog post to expand and clarify the capabilities of Workflow Automation

Can WFA manage other vendor's Storage System,such as EMC's Storage.


@JOEY_STORAGE WFA can help manage any storage system that has a common programmable interface.  Its not too far-fetched to imagine WFA adjusting the temperature and turning out the lights in the data center too!