Sei sulla pagina 1di 6

E-Book

April 2015

STORAGE FOR VIRTUAL SERVER ENVIRONMENTS

HOW VMs CHANGE


STORAGE MANAGEMENT

Storage administrators of virtual environments who approach management and


provisioning in the same way as a physical server environment could be setting
themselves up for performance trouble. BY ANDREW REICHMAN

Physical, Virtual
D 

Server Storage
Management Differ

Protocols
D

D Provisioning

D Data Protection

STORAGE FOR VIRTUAL SERVER ENVIRONMENTS

Home

Physical, Virtual
Server Storage
Management Differ

Protocols

Provisioning

Data Protection

hard-pressed
to find an enterprise IT
environment today that
doesnt use virtual servers.
The overall percentage
of virtualized workloads in enterprise environments
has risen dramatically over the last several years and the
breadth of applications that are virtualized has expanded
as well. While this has provided significant benefits
increased server resource utilization, reduced costs and
improved manageability and resiliency of compute infrastructure, for examplethe storage side of the picture
is often not as well developed.
Organizations need to understand that providing effective storage for virtual servers requires some different approaches in physical server environments. We will explore
some of the differences in a virtual machine (VM) storage
OU WOULD BE

2 HOW

VMs CHANGE STORAGE MANAGEMENT

approach, and highlight some of the technologies and


processes that can help deliver better results.

PHYSICAL, VIRTUAL SERVER


STORAGE MANAGEMENT DIFFER
Organizations that try to shoehorn their virtual server
environments into the same processes and toolsets that
they use for traditional storage will find that they cant
take maximum advantage of the benefits of virtualization, or worse, end up with brittle or poorly performing
environments.
To avoid this, there are several key areas of consideration:
n Protocols

Most virtual server technologies can use a range of protocols to connect the physical server running the VMs to the

STORAGE FOR VIRTUAL SERVER ENVIRONMENTS

Home

Physical, Virtual
Server Storage
Management Differ

Protocols

Provisioning

Data Protection

networked storage back end. Some of these may not have


been viable with physical servers; block protocols Fibre
Channel and iSCSI as well as file protocols NFS and CiFS
are options.
Fibre Channel is the most widely used storage networking protocol for virtual server environments due to its high
performance and reliability for critical applications, and
because its generally the protocol that enterprise storage
teams know best.
That said, Ethernet-based storage networking (iSCSI,
NFS or CiFS) can reduce the cost and complexity of the
virtual server environment by using cheaper, more common switches, and by using what the larger network team
already buys and manages rather than a separate network.
VMware has said that the performance doesnt vary significantly from one protocol to another, provided that they
are configured correctly and talking to sufficiently highperformance storage. Storage vendors generally focus on
what they know bestEMC is fairly FC-centric, while the
majority of NetApp customers use NFS for virtual server
environments, but both of these leading vendors do offer
options for all the supported protocols.
Some vendors, on the other hand, dont provide support
for every protocolNimble Storage is an example of one
that decided to bet on the future by supporting iSCSI and
not FC in their offering, which is frequently used for virtual
server workloads.

3 HOW

VMs CHANGE STORAGE MANAGEMENT

Protocol Choices:
How Do I Decide?
THE VENDOR-CENTRIC approach: Most vendors

favor one protocol optionwhile they may have


nominal support for others, they tend to have
the most experience with customers using one
option. If you want that vendor, youre probably
best off with the protocol they know best.
The cost-reduction approach: Performance
doesnt vary much between protocols, so why
not choose the option with the lowest total cost?
In many cases, this means switching to Etherneteither iSCSI or NFS. Just be careful that you
configure it right.
Go with what you know: Reducing islands of
management helps, and avoiding the learning
curve that comes with implementing new
technology can be valuable. One approach is
to avoid implementing technology your team
isnt familiar with and stick with what you
already use. n

STORAGE FOR VIRTUAL SERVER ENVIRONMENTS

Home

Physical, Virtual
Server Storage
Management Differ

Protocols

Provisioning

Data Protection

The protocol decision will likely hinge on whose storage


you use today, what technologies the storage admin team
is familiar with managing, and the recommendations made
by storage vendors you are considering. Virtualizing servers could represent a good opportunity to consider a shift
in storage networking strategy, allowing you to reduce cost
and complexity while getting good performance results at
the same time.
n Provisioning

With physical servers, you have the luxury of designing a


custom configuration and allocation for each machine as it
slowly comes online. With virtual servers, the expectation
for a shorter interval between the time of request and when
the server goes live, as well as the increased frequency of
requests, often requires IT teams to move faster. Waiting to
receive a request before ordering hardware and designing a
custom configuration is simply not an option. To meet the
demands for agility, consistency and speed required in this
era of virtual computing, new tools must be used.
Features such as writeable snapshots help teams create
gold-image templates that are the starting point for each
virtual server deployed. This removes the guesswork on
how each image will be configured and drives increased
consistency, which reduces errors and outages. It also
makes it faster to bring new instances online and reduces
the skill level required for provisioning, freeing up experts

4 HOW

VMs CHANGE STORAGE MANAGEMENT

for activities that add more value. Finally, most snapshots


are space-efficientrepeated data such as operating systems and configurations refer to a single copy, which in a
virtual server environment can reduce the amount of storage capacity that gets chewed up significantly.
Thin provisioning is another feature thats especially
helpful in virtual server environments. Part of the goldimage concept entails giving each virtual server the same
amount of storage capacity to remove guesswork and
increase consistency. This works, but with a traditional
storage allocation approach it can burn up a great deal of
storage that may or may not actually get used. Thin provisioning allows every server to get the same allocation
process and the appearance of the same amount of capacity,
but the physical space isnt reserved for that server until
it actually needs it. This gives the environment the best of
both worldsthe process is consistent and can be highly automated, but the storage capacity consumption is dramatically reduced.
n Data Protection

In the physical world, you can treat each whole machine as


the primary unit of backup and recovery, knowing that, if
something goes wrong, you would be likely to roll back the
entire system to a previous point. The requirements change
when many virtual servers share a physical server. Unless
theres a server hardware failure, or corruption causes the

STORAGE FOR VIRTUAL SERVER ENVIRONMENTS

Home

Physical, Virtual
Server Storage
Management Differ

Protocols

Provisioning

Data Protection

entire system to become unavailable, its unlikely that you


would want to restore every virtual server at once.
Whats much more likely is that one machine needs to
be rebuilt or fixed while the rest need to keep chugging
along without disruption. Doing this requires visibility into
the files or logical unit numbers that are associated with
each virtual server as well as the ability to manipulate each
individually. Specialized tools exist to give IT shops the
visibility and granularity of control backups and restores
at the individual VM level, but most are different from the
standard list of physical server-centric backup tools. Virtual
server management systems may give some ability to do
this, as do specialized virtual backup tools such as Veeam.
There are also differences in the overall approach to data
protection when it comes to virtual servers.
In a physical server world, the assumption is that each
machine chugs along until theres a problem, at which time
you would initiate troubleshooting and repair. But with an
increased requirement for always-available technology,
and the ability to non-disruptively move a virtual server to
a functioning platform in the event of an outage or failure,
the potential for true high availability failover becomes
more realistic. Instead of periodic backups and a big fire
drill to restore one, virtual server environments present
the ability to simply shuffle machines around based on traffic and performance requirements, and to navigate around
failures without user impact. To take maximum advantage

5 HOW

VMs CHANGE STORAGE MANAGEMENT

Top VM Storage
Management Pitfalls
PHYSICAL VS. VIRTUAL: IT often thinks the same

processes used to manage storage for physical


will work for virtualit doesnt.
SPRAWL: Just as it became easier to implement

servers and storage, were seeing everybody


and their brother spin up servers and storage
shooting consumption through the roof.
THE GOLDEN IMAGE: We use standardized tem-

plates to build VMs quickly, but that means that


many servers get more capacity assigned than
they really need.
STORAGE CANT KEEP UP: Server implementation

just got much easier and faster, but storage


implementation goes at the same slow pace
as it always has. For all its potential and popularity, server virtualization hasnt solved
the problem, just exposed a different bottleneck. n

STORAGE FOR VIRTUAL SERVER ENVIRONMENTS

Home

Physical, Virtual
Server Storage
Management Differ

Protocols

Provisioning

Data Protection

of a virtual server environment, it makes good sense to take


a step back from the processes and procedures youre used
to in the world of physical server protection, and examine
what the business really needs in terms of down time and
data loss tolerance. Then, take a look at whats possible to
build, and what it costs for several scenarios.
Taking the time to understand the new normal proposed
by the implementation of virtual servers for production
workloads will give you the ability to exceed the capabilities of what you previously built, and evaluate whether
its worth it, from a cost and complexity standpoint, to go
further. If youre not familiar with the tool and process options, you might be surprised at what you can accomplish
when you dig deeper. n
ANDREW REICHMAN works with vendors, end users and analyst firms
on advisory, strategy and content creation projects, along with writing,
speaking and blogging.He previously worked at Amazon Web Services,
leading their efforts in marketing infrastructure as a service to enterprise
firms worldwide.

How VMs Change Storage Management


is a SearchVirtualStorage.com e-publication.
Ellen OBrien | Associate Editorial Director
Ed Hannan | Senior Managing Editor
Andrew Burton | Executive Editor
Linda Koury | Director of Online Design
Neva Maniscalco | Graphic Designer
Jillian Coffin | Publisher | jcoffin@techtarget.com

TechTarget, 275 Grove Street, Newton, MA 02466


www.techtarget.com
2015 TechTarget Inc. No part of this publication may be transmitted or reproduced in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher. TechTarget reprints are available through The YGS Group.

STAY CONNECTED!
Follow @VirtStorageTT today.

About TechTarget: TechTarget publishes media for information technology


professionals. More than 100 focused websites enable quick access to a deep
store of news, advice and analysis about the technologies, products and processes crucial to your job. Our live and virtual events give you direct access to independent expert commentary and advice. At IT Knowledge Exchange, our social
community, you can get advice and share solutions with peers and experts.
COVER PHOTOGRAPH: ALENGO/ISTOCK

6 HOW

VMs CHANGE STORAGE MANAGEMENT