New Storage Systems Optimized for Virtual Environments

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The Collapsing Digital Storage Universe

How long will it be before we reach a crisis brought on by our insatiable appetite for storage?

Virtualization's impact on storage infrastructure is well-known at this point. But the consolidation and other benefits in the server and networking sides of the house can only be extended so far before you start to hit the practical limits of the storage farm, and then it's either add more storage or put the brakes on your virtualization plans.

Many enterprises have chosen the latter, which is why virtual rollouts tend to stall at around the 30 percent mark.

But where there is a need, there is also a buck to be made, which is why many of the leading storage firms are rushing out new virtualization-optimized solutions.

EMC took up the challenge this month with a smaller version of the VMAX array aimed at small and mid-sized firms that lack the financial resources to expand storage on a massive scale. Still, the device offers a max capacity of 1.3 PB, with up to four controllers overseeing between 24 and 240 drives each. It also sports 64 external front-end ports for easy hook-up to application servers. Best of all, it provides local and remote replication support for non-EMC systems, which should make data and application migration that much easier.

At the same time, EMC subsidiary VMware is out with a new vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA), which turns available server storage into a storage area network suitable for virtual environments. With VSA as part of a server cluster architecture, admins can use the iSCSI protocol to allow virtual machines to access shared storage without building a dedicated external storage architecture. It also simplifies business continuity and virtual management by allowing VMs to be transferred from server to server.

Other software developers are also taking a look at the virtual storage dilemma and coming to the same conclusion: The most readily available capacity is sitting on the servers themselves. Sanbolic's new Melio clustered file system creates storage pools using spare server resources, which the company says can be used to support physical and virtual workloads, as well as private clouds and VDI infrastructure. The company has expanded support from strictly Hyper-V environments to include VMware, Xen and KVM Linux.

Because the need for virtual-ready storage solutions is so great, the established players are having to contend with a raft of start-ups all promising low-cost scalable solutions. Newcomer Tintri, for example, has a new storage appliance called VMStore optimized for virtual machine environments. The device delivers up to 8.2 TB of capacity across nine MLC SSDs and 15 SATA drives, and can accommodate up to 200 VMs, all the while appearing as a single DAS array to storage management software.

Advanced management and optimization technologies can help somewhat in meeting virtual system demands for storage, but at the end of the day, a byte is a byte that requires real, physical storage resources. Overall storage costs continue to fall, but as virtual environments and plain old data loads creep ever upward, so will demand for innovative storage solutions.