Storage Provisioning: Seeking Parity in Virtual Environments

Arthur Cole
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Make the Financial Case for Virtualization and Cloud Computing

It's been well-documented that virtualization has made a substantial contribution to server and network architectures. But storage? Not so much.

The common complaint is that virtualization maximizes efficiency and lowers costs elsewhere in the data center, only to take it all back through the need for massive amounts of storage. This is partly correct. According to a recent survey from TheInfoPro, capacity growth is the top concern among storage professionals, followed closely by troubleshooting issues and I/O bottlenecks. In essence, virtualized enterprises are finding that additional storage is needed to meet increasing demand, but the need to provision and deploy that storage as quickly as its new server and network counterparts is equally crucial.

That's why many of the new storage management platforms are aimed not only at handling more storage but at integrating storage infrastructure into the virtual environment. The idea is to give IT the ability to build not just new server or network environments on demand but complete compute solutions, with storage as an integral component.

Overland Storage, for example, says it can speed up the provisioning process dramatically by, well, getting rid of storage provisioning altogether. The new DynamicRAID system in the SnapServer DX platform provides unlimited independently optimized and protected volumes that can be created in seconds and pooled across a variety of storage media - all without manual intervention or system downtime. The 1 and 2 U units provide a unified NAS/iSCSI SAN infrastructure that is scalable to 288 TB.

And for those of you who aren't thrown off by the term "storage hypervisor," Virsto Software says its solution accelerates the VM storage provisioning process in part through a tripling of I/O throughput, even on low-end commodity hardware. The company recently announced that its Hyper-V version has been certified for Windows Server 2008 R2 environments.

At the same time, Symantec has been building dynamic storage capabilities into its Veritas portfolio, namely through additions to its Storage Foundation and Operations Manager platforms designed to ensure high availability for critical applications. The package provides for automated provisioning and reporting across heterogeneous environments, as well as single-console management of the entire storage ecosystem that enables instant scale adjustment and optimization.

More than anything, virtualization has demonstrated that the modern data center is, and never has been, a simple collection of disparate components. By formally severing the ties between hardware and software, applications and platforms, virtualization has revealed the true organic nature of the beast. Like all organisms, the living data center strives for balance - balance in data loads, balance in systems and capabilities, and balance in optimization.

Enabling a much more dynamic and flexible storage infrastructure is probably the best thing IT can do today to restore that balance.

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