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Lori MacVittie

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Today’s F5 Friday post comes to you courtesy of our own Don MacVittie who blogs more often than not on storage-related topics like file virtualization, cloud storage, and automated tiering goodness. You can connect, converse, and contradict Don in any of the usual social networking avenues:

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I have touched a few times on managing your unstructured data, and knowing what you have so you know what to do with it. As you no doubt know, automating some of that process in a generic manner is nearly impossible, since it is tied to your business, your vertical, and your organizational structure. But some of it – file level metadata and some small amount of content metadata can absolutely be handled for you by an automated system. This process is increasingly necessary as tiering, virtualization, and cloud become more and more prevalent as elements of the modern data center. The cost driver is pretty obvious to anyone that has handled storage budgeting in the last decade… Disk is expensive, and tier one disk the most expensive. Add to that the never-ending growth of unstructured data and you have a steady bleed of IT infrastructure dollars that you’re going to want to get under control.


One of the tools that F5 (and presumably other vendors, but this is an F5 Friday post) offers to help you get a handle on your unstructured data with an eye to making your entire storage ecosystem more efficient, reliable, and scalable, is Data Manager. Data Manager is a software tool that helps you to categorize the data flowing through your corporate NAS infrastructure by looking at the unstructured files and evaluating all that it can about them from context, metadata, and source. Giving you a solid inventory of your unstructured data files is a good start toward automated tiering, including things like using an F5 ARX and a Cloud Storage Gateway to store your infrequently accessed data encrypted in the cloud.

Automating tiering is a well-known science, but providing you with data about your files, heterogeneous file system usage, and data mobility is less covered in the marketplace. But you cannot manage what you don’t understand, and we all know that we’ve been managing storage simply by buying more each budgeting cycle, and that process is starting to weigh on the ops budget as well as the tightened budgets that the current market is enforcing – though there are signs that the tight market might be lifting, who wants to keep overhead any higher than it absolutely has to be?


Auto-tiering is well-known to developers that make it happen, but consider the complexity of classifying files, identifying tiers, and moving that data while not causing disruptions to users or applications that need access to the files in question. It is definitely not the easiest task that your data center is providing,


particularly in a heterogeneous environment where communications with the several vendor’s NAS devices can vary pretty wildly. The guys that write this stuff certainly have my admiration, but it does work. The part where you identify file servers and classify data – setting up communications with the various file servers and accessing the various folders to get at the unstructured files – is necessary just for classification, and that is what Data Manager is all about. Add in that Data Manager can help you understand utilization on all of these resources – in fact does help you understand utilization of them – and you’ve got a powerful tool for understanding what is going on in your NAS storage infrastructure.

The reports it generates are in PDF, and can be done from directory level all the way up to a group of NAS boxes. Here’s a sample directory level from one of our NAS devices…

The coolest part? Data Manager is Free for 90 days. Just download it here, install it, and start telling it about your NAS devices. See what it can do for you, decide if you like it, provide us with feedback and consider if it helps enough to warrant a purchase. It is an excellent tool for you to discover where you can get the most benefit our of file virtualization solutions like the F5 ARX. And yes, we hope you’ll buy Data Manager and ask about ARX. But the point is, you can try it out and decide if it helps your organization or not. If nothing else you will get an inventory of your NAS devices and what type of utilization you are getting out of them.



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Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.