Bringing Storage into the Virtual Era

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Changing the Way You Purchase Storage

Ensure that IT has the flexibility to build and efficiently run a shared infrastructure.

It was nice while it lasted, but it seems that the top storage firms are starting to come to grips with the fact that the virtualization party is coming to an end.

I'm not saying that virtualization itself has run its course - far from it. But the comfortable practice of provisioning ever larger storage pools to handle the increased data loads that virtualization engenders is no longer sustainable. That's because more and more enterprises are encountering "virtual stall," the point at which server virtualization - usually 30 to 40 percent of total assets - cannot scale any higher aboard existing physical infrastructure. Network resources are generally more resilient to this problem since they too can accommodate a fair degree of virtualization. But once storage has hit its limit, there's no other choice but to provision more.

Or is there? It seems that a growing number of startups are aiming to deliver the kind of flexibility that leading storage vendors have been unable, or unwilling, to provide so far. Companies like Violin Memory, Nexsan and Vidident Systems have been quietly amassing venture capital in the hopes that demand for more robust storage technology will provide an opening into what has been a fairly entrenched market for the past decade or more.

One of the more intriguing is Tintri, which has devised a new kind of storage appliance, the VMstore capable of accommodating hundreds of virtual machines simultaneously, all the while appearing to the rest of the enterprise infrastructure as a standard DAS array. By utilizing object storage rather than traditional blocks and files, the company hopes to propel virtualization past the 80 percent mark in most enterprises.

Another problem that most storage managers encounter when dealing with increasingly virtualized environments is that their storage infrastructures are designed for stable, predictable I/O patterns, according to Taneja Group analyst Dave Bartoletti. Virtualized systems are anything but stable and predictable, so the resulting I/O bottlenecks can quickly degrade application performance as more VMs compete for limited resources.

So far, storage has been left out of the virtualization party, something that has suited VMware's parent, EMC, just fine. But now that new blood is looking to rein in the amount of storage needed to support virtualization, enterprises across the board will soon have reason to kick virtualization to the next level.

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