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Streamline Metadata Management With Cloud Insights’ Annotations

July 15, 2019

Topics: Cloud Insights 5 minute read

With a boom in the usage of Internet of Things technology, a surge in Big Data, and drastic changes in IT infrastructure, it’s imperative for businesses to have an effective metadata management strategy.

Metadata is information describing various facets of an asset, giving the business a clear understanding of who owns which assets, and how they’re being used. Metadata is a means of communication. By combining content with context, the metadata and asset information becomes more than merely the sum of its parts.

Metadata is information describing various facets of an asset, giving the business a clear understanding of who owns which assets, and how they’re being used. Metadata is a means of communication. By combining content with context, the metadata and asset information becomes more than merely the sum of its parts.

Many organizations maintain metadata in a configuration management database (CMDB). Ensuring this metadata is up to date and accurate is of crucial importance, if it is to be relied upon. This can be achieved by integrating with others database systems to provide this information, but in many cases, administrators may find themselves performing tedious manual tasks. This practice is increasingly difficult to maintain in a world where organizations are embracing hybrid and multicloud environments. For these organizations, Cloud Insights can enrich your CMDB by acting as the single source of truth for infrastructure monitoring and management.

Conversely, as some organizations have embraced transient and dynamic cloud-based applications architectures, they have found that centralizing metadata isn’t the right approach for them. In these cases, it’s crucial that their tooling supports integral metadata to allow for tagging, notes, and business detail in-context. In Cloud Insights, organizations can leverage a rich and extendable metadata model called "annotations" to achieve clarity, and design automatic rules for applying metadata to assets in their environment without the need for manual maintenance tasks.

Managing Metadata in Cloud Insights with Annotations

Annotations is a term that encompasses all metadata functionality, or the ability to label objects and assets within Cloud Insights. Annotations such as “Data Center”, “Tier” and “Service Level”, along with user-defined labels, can be applied automatically based on rules built by administrators. You can use annotations to add context to your data, and quickly answer queries like:

1. Use organizational annotations to identify what your top talkers are for a specific Application or Business Unit
2. Use technology-oriented annotations, to show you how much capacity you’re consuming in Tier 1 SAN storage
3. Use location-based annotations to filter out wasted resources by which are cloud-based and which are on-premises, so you can prioritize more fluidly.

Creating New Annotations and Updating Existing Ones

Before applying new types of annotations to assets in Cloud Insights, you first need to define what they are, and what type of data they will contain, such as free text, fixed list, or Boolean.

Step 1: From Cloud Insights, select Manage > Annotations.
Step 2: On the Annotations page, move the cursor to the far right-side of the desired annotation type and click on “Edit”.
Step 3: On the annotation editing menu that opens, enter the appropriate values and descriptions of your organization’s assets.
Step 4: Click the “+ Annotation” button to create additional annotation values that are specific to your environment for this annotation type.


How to Manually Apply an Annotation to a Filtered List:

You can apply annotations on-the-fly directly from an asset landing page; however, if you wish to apply annotations to many similar assets, you can do so manually by creating a filtered list of assets from the Cloud Insights UI. We call that list a “query”.

Let’s look at a simple example of annotating storage arrays with their datacenter location:

Step 1: Select Queries, and then “New Query”.
Step 2: On the “New Query” page, select a resource type from the drop-down menu. In this example, we will use the “Storage” resource type.
Step 3: In our environment, we’re going to filter by IP address. In this case, we know that any storage arrays starting with 10.197 are in the “NANE ISElab” datacenter, so we can add this field to the query. In your environment, it may be more appropriate to filter by another property, such as naming convention.
Step 4: This list of storage arrays will automatically update. To see more properties for this list of assets, select the “Columns” icon at the far right-side of the page and select the “Data Center” checkbox.
Step 5: Select the checkboxes on the far left-side. The “Bulk Actions” drop-down menu will appear on the top lefthand side of the column headings section. Click the “Bulk Actions” drop-down menu and select “Edit Annotation”.
Step 6: Under the “Add Annotation” window, select the appropriate annotation (in this example, “Data Center”) and add a text value for the data center.
Step 7: Select the “Save” button at the top right corner of the screen; give the query a name and press the “Save” button to finish the process.
Step 8: Click the “Queries” tab at the top of the page, then select “Show All Queries” to verify that the query appears.

Annotations - Query Results

Steps for Applying an Annotation Rule to a Query

You can automate the annotation process so that, when new assets are discovered that match the same query criteria, certain annotations are applied automatically. In the below example, we’ll make a rule to automatically label new arrays in the 10.197 IP range from the previous steps.

1. Go to Manage > Annotation Rules, and click the “+Rule” button
2. Give the annotation rule name and select the query you just saved in the last step.
3. Select the “Data Center” annotation from the drop down box, and the label you would like to automatically apply.

Annotations - Add Rule

Streamline Your Operations with Annotations

Even though we’ve just looked at one example of annotations here, you can use annotations and rules to apply dozens of labels to your assets. Other things you may want to try out are:

  • Annotate production, development, and QA workloads to allow you to apply different alert thresholds on each.
  • Annotate owning business units, to identify the highest consumers of storage or compute by team.
  • Annotate cloud and on-premises resources, which allows you to filter visualizations in dashboards, or to use variables to update them on the fly.

Really, annotations in Cloud Insights are a powerful tool for keeping your metadata organized, so that you and your colleagues are always on the same page when it comes to knowing your resources.

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Solutions Developer