Until recently, sizing infrastructure for a virtualized storage environment has relied on growth estimates that are difficult to predict, says Christina Weil, district director at Houston-based Centre Technologies, an IT services company and a Dell partner. Customers sometimes make major buying decisions based on a less-than-complete assessment of their infrastructure and system requirements, Weil says, and end up overestimating what they need.

Finding the right solution for a virtualized environment can be very challenging. It’s difficult to plan for the right-sized storage area network (SAN) if you lack knowledge of existing resources and resource allocation and the agility to plan for future growth. IT departments need help planning and sizing workloads when moving to new infrastructures that might include virtualized workloads, SANs or network attached storage (NAS).

Having this information is crucial because without it, customers are just making assumptions about what they need and how an environment is going to perform once it is consolidated and virtualized. A true assessment and analysis is needed.

DPACK helps you analyze

“There are lots of assessment tools out there, but previously they didn’t accurately depict performance requirements and match those to solution capabilities,” says Nicholas Rose, storage marketing manager at Dell.

The Dell Performance Analysis Collection Kit (DPACK) is a complimentary tool IT managers can use to evaluate their needs. It’s an agentless method for gathering and reporting core system requirements such as disk I/O, capacity and memory utilization. It provides an in-depth view of server workloads and capacity requirements when preparing for a hardware migration or refresh.

“We routinely see customers plan to buy 50% more in storage arrays than they need,” Rose says. “We are helping customers implement the right solution based on their business needs and their environment.”

Simulating the performance of an IT environment once it is consolidated into a virtual environment can be difficult. DPACK provides an intelligent simulation so IT managers can better understand how their environment will behave using shared resources.


Intelligent IT decisions

Business intelligence (BI) has gained quite a reputation for the enormous advantage it gives to sales, marketing and customer service departments. But IT can benefit from BI as well. DPACK is an IT-centric BI tool, offering IT departments the means to gather relevant, crucial information to make the best decisions.

DPACK customer photoWith the most complete and accurate information on existing infrastructure, IT departments can make the best decisions on what to buy, how much to buy and how to deploy the most appropriate technology.

“The DPACK tool is compelling because it provides very granular information on physical servers and an assessment of virtual servers,” Weil says.

For example, DPACK provides information on disk performance, throughput and a view of total in-use memory when aggregated across servers. According to Weil, this information often helps customers determine that they need far less capacity than they originally thought. Pooling resources into a virtual environment means all data has access to all capabilities, which often means less up-front cost.

“DPACK says, ‘Here are the IOPS (input/output operations per second) and your capacity needs. Let’s get what you need today and scale as you grow,’” Weil says.

In-depth resource reports

DPACK works by producing a file with an .IOKIT extension. Customers simply email this file to Dell or a Dell channel partner to have one of two types of customized reports generated. One is an aggregation of resource needs across disparate servers with a simulation of those workloads if they were consolidated to shared resources. The other is an in-depth individual server report to be used by IT administrators to discover potential bottlenecks or hot spots that need to be engineered out of a new system design before purchasing and deploying new equipment.

The report can be a big contributor to cost avoidance, and because DPACK incurs no cost itself, IT departments can more easily perform regular assessments of their infrastructure as their needs change.

“DPACK helps customers understand their current environment and plan for the future,” Rose says. “Our job isn’t so much to sell but to educate and guide IT departments through the crucial planning process.”

--Lisa DiCarlo Lee has been a technology writer and reporter since 1993.