Just Like Buses… SAN Switch Performance

Just Like Buses… SAN Switch Performance

Quick question. Hands up everyone who captures, monitors and produces reports on SAN Switch performance? I am guessing there are not many hands up at this point and it would include mine. For as long as I can remember when discussing Storage performance we analyse the Storage Unit and report on the back end IOPS and response times we see. If the end users have still got a problem, then surely it has to be the processor or application itself? What we neglect to review is the piece of kit that links the storage to the processor, and this is mainly down to a lack of installed products to support us.

And then, just like buses… along comes two offerings (both free of charge) which will assist with monitoring and reporting on our SAN Switches. The two products offer slightly different output in my opinion but by deploying either one or both you can really get to grips with SAN performance.

Storage Insights

First up is IBM’s Storage Insights. Anyone who regularly reads our Newsletter articles will know by now that we are big supporters of Storage Insights. We deploy the free version alongside every storage unit we sell and would also encourage the use of ‘pro’ (paid for) version for customers who rely heavily on the performance of their storage and need the ability to proactively monitor and report against certain situations.

The Storage Insights software is under continual development and the latest release sees the monitoring and collection of data relating to switch and fabric performance. If you have already deployed the free version of Storage Insights then you now get the same rolling 24 hour graphical view for the SAN fabric, see below:

From this view you can do the following: 

  • Easily spot which switches and fabrics require your attention.

  • Monitor for saturation, congestion, and fabric errors that might impact performance.

  • Get improved time to resolution for complex storage and fabric issues because IBM support doesn’t have to ask for as much information.

  • Use different views to understand how your storage, switches, and hosts are connected so you can better plan and troubleshoot.

Upgrade to Storage Insights Pro and things get better again! You can access up to 2 years of historical data collected against switches and fabrics. From this data there is over 40 metrics that can be used to create and share reports, you will see in the screen shot above the free version offers 4 only. And finally, you get the option to create alerts so you are automatically notified of problems or potential problems.

We have covered this before, but I think it is worth mentioning again. If you have IBM Storage deployed at your site then you really should have Storage Insights up and running to compliment this. The addition of the SAN monitoring capability is just another reason to make use of this offering.

Brocade SAN Health Check

Next is the offering from Brocade. I view this product as something you may want to use periodically to provide a general overview of the infrastructure and performance. In fact, I would go as far to say it is more of an audit tool than anything else but the reporting it provides you with is pretty good. Let’s say you have Storage Insights free version but want more without paying for it, then deploy this tool alongside and you are almost there. There is a client that needs to run on a PC with access to the switches, you can then collect up to 24 hours of data before sending that collection to Brocade to process and collate into a report. It takes between 1-4 hours to process the report so this is more of a reactive than point in time process, I have placed a couple of screenshots from the report below which give you an idea of what to expect.

This tool enables you to do the following: 

  • Collect inventory of devices, switches, firmware version and SAN fabrics

  • Capture and display historical performance data

  • Compare configuration against best practices

  • Produce detailed graphical reports and diagrams

I certainly think it is worth checking out what this tool offers and can see it being used as a regular touch point to aid in the management of installed SAN fabrics.

In Summary, we have two products relating to IBM storage and SAN Switches that I think can offer real value at no cost. I realise there are already tools out there that provide this but in reality, if you don’t have a separate network team then I doubt you will have them deployed. In the SMB world this is often the case and I think this is where I would expect to see these offerings deliver the most value.

As always if you want to discuss this further then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.