How to settle your storage woes in a virtualized world
Flash is undoubtedly considered a superhero within the world of storage. However, it is unlikely to save the day all on its own. Whilst playing an important role, flash is just one of multiple solutions required to address the most common storage pain points in the data center.
Just like any superhero, it needs to work as part of a team in order to save the world or at least save you time. And in that respect, there is an underlying problem (or villain) that needs to be fought off. After all, without villains, there would be no need for superheroes in the first place.
The danger here stems from the shift of physical to virtualized workloads. Over the past decade, the percentage of virtualized workloads has jumped from two per cent to 75 percent; but organizations continue to use storage that was originally built for physical workloads. This speedy adoption of virtualization has created a mismatch in the data center, with physical storage becoming the reason for rapidly increasing costs and even higher levels of frustration, as IT admins battle bottlenecks on a daily basis.
- Virtualization: A Major Pain Point
A survey of 1,000 data center professionals conducted recently found that the two most cited storage pain points were performance (50 percent of respondents) and manageability (41 percent of respondents).
Given that increasing numbers of virtual workloads are generating far more random I/O patterns that are bound to choke disk-centric storage, that’s hardly surprising. To try and improve performance, storage admins shuffle virtual machines from one storage LUN or volume to another: this presents them with a number of manageability shortcomings in the process.
- Buying Time Doesn't Solve the Problem
One way to try and overcome performance pain is to use flash because it is low latency and can handle random I/O (it’s also much faster). A single commodity SSD (Solid State Drive) is 400 times quicker than a hard disk drive (HDD). To put that in context, the speed of sound is "only" 250 times faster than walking -- quite a comparison!
However, flash’s powerful speed can only buy admins time. It doesn’t have the ability to deal with the root cause of storage pain -- the disconnect between virtual workloads and physical-world storage: it only addresses the symptoms.
Over time, data center professionals are likely to add more virtualized workloads as they expand their footprint from virtualized desktops to servers to private cloud. To keep up with the added strain on their infrastructure, they are forced to buy more and more (high cost) flash. Not only is that bad for their budget, worse still, it won’t resolve the disconnect.
- How to Match Your Storage with Your Virtualized Environments
Deploying storage specifically built for the world of virtualized workloads, storage that is VM-aware, is the best way to solve the root cause of storage pain.
VM-aware storage has none of the LUNs, volumes or other management constructs found in conventional, physical-first storage. Without those outdated constructs, VM-aware storage performs all actions and analytics at the virtual machine-level.
Conventional storage groups virtual machines into LUN or volume and applies policies at that aggregated level -- assigning an amount of performance to be shared by all the virtual machines inside the LUN or volume. A rogue virtual machine in the LUN will consume performance that could or should be better used by its neighbors.
VM-aware storage gives admins x-ray visibility to see latency for an individual VM across compute, network and storage. It can even set minimum performance for mission critical VMs or set performance caps on potentially rogue VMs. This enables admins to guarantee every VM will get the exact performance it needs.
- Manageability Is Key
A vital part of the equation is undoubtedly manageability. Most storage admins and/or virtualization admins have to maintain a large spreadsheet to map all VMs to their respective LUN or volume. As the VMs are shuffled around, the spreadsheet must be meticulously maintained. VM-aware storage makes the spreadsheet obsolete with its x-ray like powers.
Admins can log in and see every individual VM, drill in for full analytics or set a policy (replication, cloning, etc.) at the VM level. And, without LUNs or volumes, VM-aware storage introduces a common language (VMs) that works across the entire data center.
- Getting Your Money’s Worth with the Right Solution
For storage admins, the only way to improve performance in the long term is with VM level visibility and control. A VM-aware brain can ensure that flash brawn is effectively applied to the VMs with the greatest needs. And it can provide VM level analytics, both real-time and predictive to help the organization understand how its storage footprint (and its requirements) are changing.
With the arrival of VM-aware all-flash on the market, organizations have choice. This choice involves enhancing their hybrid storage strategy of mixing flash and spinning disk or adopting an all-flash approach where it is required.
In other words, customers are able to decide which workloads benefit from an all-flash or hybrid-flash approach. VM-aware storage can guide them on how best to balance workloads across storage platforms to make the best use of their time and money.
Although flash may not be able to rescue an organization’s data center single-handedly, it plays a vital role in helping VM-aware storage to save the day.
Kieran Harty, CTO and co-founder of Tintri.
Published under license from ITProPortal.com, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.