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Optimizing Storage to Unclog Your Infrastructure

  Article published in DM Direct Newsletter
November 4, 2005 Issue
  By Kathy Klimpel

Sophisticated solutions are available today for the monitoring, management and automation of z/OS environments. Enterprise data management solutions optimize performance, simplify administration and assure recovery across all major mainframe and distributed database environments. Dynamic batch scheduling management solutions help orchestrate and optimize enterprise-wide batch processes. Application performance solutions optimize the performance of the entire IT environment, ensuring high levels of user satisfaction, maximizing resources and reducing management costs. Performance and capacity planning solutions assure application responsiveness, optimize resources help you meet service-level commitments and manage the impact of performance and capacity changes to the business.

Storage resource management solutions manage storage performance, capacity and costs as part of a company's business processes. Because all data is stored, storage is a critical component of application performance that can - and will - affect application availability and response time. Managing storage as part of the application or, more importantly, as a component of business services will allow companies to understand how storage supports their business strategy. Managing storage is not an easy task, but storage administrators can employ best practices to ensure that data is accessible and available. This article will examine some of the problems storage administrators face and the role of automated processes and tools in eliminating them so that the storage administrator can focus on higher-value tasks.

The nature of storage management is unforgiving - in other words, storage administrators have only one chance to get things right. They don't have the luxury of being able to go back and fix things. For example, if a job abends because of a space problem, the storage administrator now has two problems: determining the cause of the abend, correcting it and rerunning the job.1 For this reason, automated processes and tools are critical for keeping storage environments running smoothly. Intelligent automation, or tools that "learn" based on historical events, create more efficiencies. If the storage administrator has tools that resolve the problem automatically, he can focus on more critical issues.

A large percentage of a storage administrator's time is spent managing problems. Because the storage administrator is responsible for the corporate data, prompt resolution of problems is essential. Problems that are ignored will grow into bigger problems that may spiral out of control. Problems generally fall into the areas of performance, availability, recovery and security. If any particular problem takes a storage administrator's time more than another, it is probably the problem of adding DASD, moving files or finding data sets that users have inexplicably lost. Intelligent storage resource management (SRM) automation tools, when combined with tools that prevent out-of-space abends, can drastically reduce or even eliminate these problems. And SRM reporting tools can help storage administrators quickly resolve the problems that do occur.

Another priority for storage administrators is storage performance. If storage is performing badly, the rest of the application will follow suit. For example, if access to storage is slow, an online shopping site may not be able to complete a sale before the user clicks to another site. Roughly 20% of a storage administrator's time is spent resolving performance-related issues, and of that percentage, most of the time is spent on transaction processing and databases (CICS, IMS and DB2). Tools can help with this process by providing the ability to drill down from user data sets through emulated mainframe volumes to vendor disk subsystems in order to diagnose and correct performance and availability issues.

Unfortunately, solving storage-related performance issues is rarely as simple as adding cache to an array. The symptoms are usually nonspecific workload slowdowns, so merely identifying the issue can be a struggle. Through reporting and automation capabilities, storage administrators can monitor the storage configuration for warning signs of impending problems ranging from system-managed storage (SMS), hierarchical storage management (HSM) and storage devices to other resources. Ideally, the storage administrator has a tool that consolidates disparate information into one easy-to-use application, eliminating the problem of finding and selecting a tool from the large number of tools most installations have on hand.

Problems with availability usually center around two areas: access to data and space availability. When an application cannot find the data it needs, the application grinds to a halt. Even when applications get the data they need, they need to have enough space available for the tasks to complete. Automated processes and solutions can compliment SMS and HSM to more quickly resolve these availability problems. For example, storage administrators can avoid runaway storage allocations that limit space availability by using monitoring solutions that understand and interpret SMS and HSM activities into easily understood reports to show the effectiveness of their storage operations.

In many shops, data sets are created on tape in a manual tape library and a human is responsible for finding and mounting the tape (a real challenge when the tape is located off-site). In other sites, robotic tape libraries are used. Even with this robotic automation, shops can have problems with the availability of cartridge slots (for example, how full is the library?) or how busy the robot or the tape drives are.

Application and data set recovery is never fun - it is always a pressure situation, and sadly, a situation that can cause small problems to snowball into major issues. When an application or data set fails, all transaction processing stops until the failed item is recovered. Outages are painful and expensive - both in terms of the cost of recovery and lost opportunity cost of processing that could have been done during the recovery period.

In many installations, the storage administrator is responsible for recovering data. The usual exceptions are databases and (sometimes) the operating system itself. Databases have very specialized tools for backup, but the majority of the data sets are handled by HSM, data set services (DSS), or another vendor product. Intelligent SRM tools report on backups in HSM, integrating the database information into the storage environment. Automated recovery tools make it easy to back up and recover all types of data, even to the exact point in time when the failure occurred.

For security, components like SMS and HSM depend on multisystem serialization functions to keep critical system structures safe. Global resource serialization (GRS) or its equivalent is can prevent systems from damaging one another. The most frequent reason HSM control data sets get corrupted is that serialization specifications are set incorrectly. The same philosophy is true for catalogs - they must be locked to ensure that users don't inadvertently damage these critical system structures. Even where tape data sets are concerned, the storage administrator gets involved because today's environments depend on the integrity of catalogs. As part of implementing automated storage management, companies can establish catalog rules that will ensure the security of the storage environment.

In today's fast-paced, unforgiving storage environment, learning on the job is like a trial by fire. With the right processes in place and tools in their tool chest, storage administrators can ensure quick resolution of problems and proactive management of storage.


1. "Abend" is an acronym for abnormal end of task. It refers to software crashes or loss.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Business Intelligence and Storage.

Kathy Klimpel, consulting product management manager for BMC Software, manages mainframe SRM, transaction management and network products. She has spent 14 years at BMC Software in a number of positions in the mainframe monitoring and IMS areas. Klimpel can be reached at Kathy_Klimpel@bmc.com.

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