Health checks: You get them, so why not your storage?

By | 4 minute read | December 7, 2020

Like many IT leaders, your IT environment is likely comprised of a mix of on-premises and cloud solutions. You’ve also likely found that a hybrid multicloud approach is better able to meet your and your customers’ needs. Whether your data storage is on premises or in the cloud, it’s critical that you keep your storage infrastructure in good health—after all, data can be a business’s most valuable resource. As an IT leader, you should be asking the question, “How healthy is my storage?”  

What’s the best way to make sure your storage or software-defined storage (SDS) environment is in optimal health? Regular checkups. In this post, I want to address the concept and reality of storage health checks for software-defined storage (SDS) environments— why you need them and what they involve. Health checks for block, file or object SDS storage will be similar.  

Why your SDS needs regular health checks 

Just like your health, the health of your storage environments can change over time. Workloads change, requirements change and use cases change. When they do, you need to review your infrastructure to make certain it can keep up with an ever-evolving environment. Your storage needs periodic checkups, just like you do 

Think of it like this: as you age, there are changes in your health, some good, some not so good. To maintain good health, some people work out, change their diets and get regular preventative care. Others don’t adapt to the changing requirements and workloads of life and thus suffer from poor health. Your storage and SDS environments also need regular checkups to keep them in top shape. Moreover, as your use cases evolve, it’s important to make sure your storage or SDS infrastructure can meet those evolving needs.  

If you’re still wondering why you would need a storage health check, ask yourself: 

  • Are there operational issues with your current SDS infrastructure? 
  • Are you curious about the current configuration? 
  • Does it meet best practices for the storage vendor and your use case? 
  • Are there any areas of your SDS infrastructure you should be concerned about?  

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might want to think about engaging your storage or SDS vendor to perform a basic health check and help you improve your storage performance. 

Storage and SDS health: What you need to think about 

When performing a storage health check, you should review the following areas. This is not an allinclusive list, but it’s a good starting point. From this initial review, you can dive deeper as needed.  

  • Networking – Software-defined storage such as IBM Elastic Storage Server and IBM Spectrum Scale, are highly dependent on healthy, well-functioning networking. To accurately review the health and performance of the different types of network dependent storage, you need to select the correct tools for the networks being used.  
  • Performance – For SDS, specifically file storage, it’s important to do an assessment of the file system and the network using tools that mimic the writes and reads of the file system. For instance, when dealing with IBM Spectrum Scale or IBM Elastic Storage System, there are two tools that can mimic the protocol of the parallel reads and writes of Spectrum Scale. These tools are gpfsperf, which measures the performance of the file system, and nsdperf, which measures the performance of the Spectrum Scale or ESS high speed data or daemon network.  
  • Storage media – How is it functioning? There are several tools to use when reviewing health and performance. Keep in mind that NVMe, SSD disks and HDD disks will all use different tools, so make sure to match the disks to the tools for storage media type. Disks are the most likely item to fail in a storage infrastructure, so consider taking a deeper dive into the performance and functionality as part of the health check. 
  • Operating system – Do we have enough cores? What is the CPU usage? How much memory is being consumed?    
  • Scope of the health check – What is the health check measuring and reviewing? Some health checks and assessments don’t evaluate performance but rather evaluate the basic health of the storage subsystem. You need to determine what type of health check or assessment you need, because it will require different tools and skills. 

Keep in mind: this list is by no means exhaustive. A health check could include additional assessments and recommendations, depending on your environment and reasons for seeking this type of service. 

Let the storage specialists help 

Once youve determined that you need a review of your SDS environment, I recommend working with storage specialists whoperform health checks regularly. They will have expertise and resources at their disposal that your IT team might lack. 

IBM Systems Lab Services can assist with performing health checks and performance assessments on your IBM Storage and SDS infrastructure along with a range of other services for your hybrid cloud infrastructure.  

>> Contact Lab Services today.