If monitoring server and storage performance feels like a constant uphill battle, it’s not surprising. Advanced multi-tenant storage, virtualization layers, network complexity, a broad array of vendors, and the silo-like nature of IT organizations all compound the challenge.
You likely know there are several ways to monitor your environment. But which tool or tools are right for your organization? The options range from homegrown scripts to enterprise-wide performance management tools. This article summarizes their pros and cons.
Open Source and Homegrown Scripts
“Why pay for it when you can get it for free?” is the oft asked question.
If your organization is small, it’s natural for you to gravitate towards the least expensive solution for monitoring your server and storage performance. When a slowdown or an outage threatens business operations, you immediately need to find the cause and eliminate the problem. Since there’s no budget for purchasing a monitoring solution, it makes sense to have one of your technical team members write a script that can give you a window on your IT environment. Alternatively, you might turn to free and low-cost open source programs that are increasingly available.
While homegrown programs may seem to be economical, they are unlikely to cover all your needs. Also, as your company grows, servers and storage devices multiply, adding layers of complexity to your scripting needs. As a result, the task takes more time and requires a deeper skill set.
While some companies have an associate with the necessary skills, often that individual does not have the time to write the scripts. While he has the best of intentions of getting to the job “someday,” it lingers at the bottom of his to-do list. Perhaps that’s a good thing. After all, he’s probably adding more value completing other projects. There are just not enough hours in the day to get it all done.
Even if he ekes out the time to write perfect scripts, there can be other negative ramifications. He may be the only associate who knows how he wrote the scripts. When he finds greener grass outside the organization, packs his box and leaves, the company is left high and dry with no one who understands the monitoring solution.
Open source management suites may be a better solution because they tend to be more user-friendly and there is a community of people tending to them, fixing bugs and improving functionality. But as always, you get what you pay for. Users must doggedly download the latest updates and keep abreast of software distributions. Before trying one, it’s important to assess whether it fits your needs. Remember, just because it’s free or cheap, it does not mean it’s right for you. The time you spend managing a solution is valuable too. Don’t discount it.
Vendor Specific Tools for Monitoring Server and Storage Performance
You likely receive many free tools packaged in with technology you buy. It’s hard to argue with the price, and each of these tools may work well with the technology it supports.
There are, however, several weaknesses to these solutions.
First, each tool only monitors one part of your infrastructure, such as a single storage device. When you have a problem, you have to look at each tool until you find the weak link.
Adding to the issue, if your organization is like most, your technology includes an assortment of brands. For instance, you might have IBM, Hitachi, and EMC storage. The tool that you use to manage IBM is completely different than the one for Hitachi or EMC. So you have a learning curve, often a steep one, associated with each solution. Also, on a daily basis, the time to shift gears mentally from one to the next adds up.
Another problem is that vendor specific tools don’t interact with each other. So you never see the bird’s-eye view of your entire IT infrastructure environment. You see one sliver of the picture at a time.
Finally, most vendor specific tools have limited capabilities and little, if any, ability to adjust them to meet your needs. This constraint is not surprising since the tools are provided by companies with strengths in manufacturing servers and storage, not in creating monitoring solutions.
Purchased Alert Software
Real-time alerting software helps you identify problems in your IT environment immediately. For instance, it gives you a heads-up when a server goes down, CPU hits 100%, or an application stops running. This enables you to take action right away to get critical systems back up and running.
On the downside, alert software tends to be difficult to use and configure, requiring a specialized skill set and the time to apply it. Because of these challenges, companies are often unable to set up these tools to meet their needs. As a result, these solutions dish out tons of alerts. With so much noise, administrators don’t know what to address first.
Another stumbling block is that each software package has its strengths and weaknesses. Some are excellent for monitoring servers but not for storage and vice versa. Because of this problem, companies have to piece together a collage of solutions. With multiple products crying “fire, fire, fire,” it makes it even more challenging for admins to filter through them and address the burning issues.
Enterprise-Wide Performance Management
As the name implies, the benefits of an enterprise-wide solution are that you can view your infrastructure across your whole business. Well, almost. They do not give you a window on performance in the cloud.
While these solutions cover a broad spectrum, they do not enable you to dig deeply into server, storage and SAN performance to discover root causes. So, be aware, as the complexity of your infrastructure increases, you may find that broad coverage is not enough to meet your needs.
Even with these inadequacies, enterprise-wide tools’ price tags runs into the millions. The investment does not stop there. You also need:
- Your own infrastructure just to run such a solution, including servers, storage and network
- Two or three full-time employees to manage, maintain and upgrade them
Cloud-Based Infrastructure Performance Management Tool
A cloud-based infrastructure performance management tool gives you a single view of your enterprise IT infrastructure—on-premise, hybrid, and cloud—and comes at a fraction of the price of an on-premise solution. It’s easy to implement, does not require any infrastructure to support it or full-time employees to manage it. One tool can cover servers, storage, and SAN. It not only enables you to see the big picture, but also to dig as deeply as necessary to find issues and manage performance.
This solution works well if you use it and monitor it. If you feel there may be times when you fail to check the software, however, it’s a good idea to back it up with alert software.
To learn how Galileo’s cloud-based infrastructure performance management tool can help you, schedule a demo now.