Includes virtual infrastructure technologies (server, desktop, I/O), virtual infrastructure management (monitoring, optimization and performance), and virtualized data center operations and strategies (automation and Cloud computing).
Virtualization is arguably the most disruptive technology shift in data center infrastructure and management in the last decade. While its basic principles may not be new, virtualization has never been so widespread, nor has it been applied to as many platforms as it is today. Taneja Group analysts combine expert knowledge of server and storage virtualization with keen insight into their impact on all aspects of IT operations and management to give our clients the research and analysis required to take advantage of this “virtual evolution.” Our virtualization practice covers all virtual infrastructure components: server virtualization/hypervisors, desktop/client virtualization, storage virtualization, and network and I/O virtualization. We also explore application virtualization and delivery strategies. In addition, Taneja is uniquely focused on the end-to-end impact of virtualization on IT management, from the desktop to the Cloud, including: virtual server lifecycle management; virtual infrastructure instrumentation, performance management, and optimization; data protection, backup, and HA/DR for virtual environments; data center and run-book automation; and virtual infrastructure security and compliance management.
Storage performance has long been the bane of the enterprise infrastructure. Fortunately, in the past couple of years, solid-state technologies have allowed new comers as well as established storage vendors to start shaping up clever, cost effective, and highly efficient storage solutions that unlock greater storage performance. It is our opinion that the most innovative of these solutions are the ones that require no real alteration in the storage infrastructure, nor a change in data management and protection practices.
This is entirely possible with server-side caching solutions today. Server-side caching solutions typically use either PCIe solid-state NAND Flash or SAS/SATA SSDs installed in the server alongside a hardware or software IO handler component that mirrors commonly utilized data blocks onto the local high speed solid-state storage. Then the IO handler redirects server requests for data blocks to those local copies that are served up with lower latency (microseconds instead of milliseconds) and greater bandwidth than the original backend storage. Since data is simply cached, instead of moved, the solution is transparent to the infrastructure. Data remains consolidated on the same enterprise infrastructure, and all of the original data management practices – such as snapshots and backup – still work. Moreover, server-side caches can actually offload IO from the backend storage system, and can allow a single storage system to effectively serve many more clients. Clearly there’s tremendous potential value in a solution that can be transparently inserted into the infrastructure and address storage performance problems.
The age of the software defined datacenter (SDDC) and converged infrastructure is upon us. The benefits of abstracting, pooling and running compute, storage and networking functions together on shared commodity hardware brings unprecedented agility and flexibility to the datacenter while driving actual costs down. The tectonic shift in the datacenter caused by software-defined storage and networking will prove to be as great as, and may prove to be greater than, the shift to virtualized servers during the last decade. While software-defined networking (SDN) is still in its infancy, software-defined storage (SDS) has been developing for quite some time.
LeftHand Networks (now HP StoreVirtual) released its first iSCSI VSA (virtual storage appliance) in 2007, which brought the advantages of software-based storage to small and midsize company environments. LeftHand Networks’ VSA was a virtual machine that hosted a software implementation of LeftHand’s well-regarded iSCSI hardware storage array. Since that time many other vendors have released VSAs, but none have captured the market share of HP’s StoreVirtual VSA. But the release of VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) in March of 2014 could change that as VSAN, with the backing of the virtualization giant, is poised to be a serious contender in the SDS marketplace. Taneja Group thought that it would be interesting to take a closer look at how a mature, well regarded and widely deployed SDS product such as HP StoreVirtual VSA compares to the newest entry in the SDS market: VMware’s VSAN.
The observations we have made for both products are based on hands-on lab testing, but we do not consider this a Technology Validation exercise because we were not able to conduct an apples-to-apples comparison between the offerings, primarily due to the limited hardware compatibility list (HCL) for VMware VSAN. However, the hands-on testing that we were able to conduct gave us a very good understanding of both products. Both products surprised and, more often than not, did not disappoint us. In an ideal world without budgetary constraints, both products may have a place in your datacenter, but they are not by any means interchangeable. We found that one of the products would be more useful for a variety of datacenter storage needs, including some tier 1 use cases, while the other is more suited today to supporting the needs some of tier 2 and tier 3 applications.
The massive trend to virtualize servers has brought great benefits to IT data centers everywhere, but other domains of IT infrastructure have been challenged to likewise evolve. In particular, enterprise storage has remained expensively tied to a traditional hardware infrastructure based on antiquated logical constructs that are not well aligned with virtual workloads – ultimately impairing both IT efficiency and organizational agility.
Software-Defined Storage provides a new approach to making better use of storage resources in the virtual environment. Some software-defined solutions are even enabling storage provisioning and management on an object, database or per-VM level instead of struggling with block storage LUN’s or file volumes. In particular, VM-centricity, especially when combined with an automatic policy-based approach to management, enables virtual admins to deal with storage in the same mindset and in the same flow as other virtual admin tasks.
In this paper, we will look at VMware’s Virtual SAN product and its impact on operations. Virtual SAN brings both virtualized storage infrastructure and VM-centric storage together into one solution that significantly reduces cost compared to a traditional SAN. While this kind of software-defined storage alters the acquisition cost of storage in several big ways (avoiding proprietary storage hardware, dedicated storage adapters and fabrics, et.al.) here at Taneja Group what we find more significant is the opportunity for solutions like VMware’s Virtual SAN to fundamentally alter the on-going operational (or OPEX) costs of storage.
In this report, we will look at how Software-Defined Storage stands to transform the long term OPEX for storage by examining VMware’s Virtual SAN product. We’ll do this by examining a representative handful of key operational tasks associated with enterprise storage and the virtual infrastructure in our validation lab. We’ll examine the key data points recorded from our comparative hands-on examination, estimating the overall time and effort required for common OPEX tasks on both VMware Virtual SAN and traditional enterprise storage.
The era of IT infrastructure convergence is upon us. Over the past few years Integrated Computing systems – the integration of compute, networking, and storage - have burst onto the scene and have been readily adopted by large enterprise users. The success of these systems has been built by taking well-known IT workloads and combining it with purpose built integrated computing systems optimized for that particular workload. Example workloads today that are being integrated to create these systems are Cloud, Big Data, Virtualization, Database, VDI or even combinations of two or more.
In the past putting these workload solutions together meant having or hiring technology experts with multiple domain knowledge expertise. Integration and validation could take months of on-premise work. Fortunately, technology vendors have matured along with their Integrated Computing systems approach, and now practically every vendor seems to be touting one integrated system or another focused on solving a particular workload problem. The promised set of business benefits delivered by these new systems fall into these key areas:
· Implementation efficiency that accelerates time to realizing value from integrated systems
· Operational efficiency through optimized workload density and an ideally right sized set of infrastructure
· Management efficiency enabled by an integrated management umbrella that ties all of the components of a solution together
· Scale and agility efficiency unlocked through a repeatedly deployable building block approach
· Support efficiency that comes with deeply integrated, pre-configured technologies, overarching support tools, and a single vendor support approach for an entire-set of infrastructure
In late 2013, HP introduced a new portfolio offering called HP ConvergedSystem – a family of systems that includes a specifically designed virtualization offering. ConvergedSystem marked a new offering, designed to tackle key customer pain points around infrastructure and software solution deployment, while leveraging HP’s expertise in large scale build-and-integration processes to herald an entirely new level of agility around speed of ordering and implementation. In this profile, we’ll examine how integrated computing systems marks a serious departure from the inefficiencies of traditional order-build-deploy customer processes, and also evaluate HP’s latest advancement of these types of systems.
Whether a customer is making their first foray into external storage technology, or buying their 100th storage array, there is little doubt in most customers' minds that storage can be hard. Specialized storage technology, combined with significant cost and the critical nature of stored data, mix together to make storage one of the riskiest endeavors most IT practitioners will undertake.
Over the past two years, the storage market has exploded with offerings that provide more storage system choices than ever before. In part, this is due to the recent and rapid introduction of technologies like flash storage that have enabled new companies to bring to market fairly competent storage systems with significantly less engineering effort.
There is little doubt that the resulting competition and choice are a boon to the customer, as this can drive down prices, and compel vendors to innovate and deliver new features more aggressively. But sometimes, new technologies may leave lingering surprises for the customer - especially for those customers trying to build a long term and lasting storage strategy. Moreover, storage technology is changing in multiple dimensions. There is a revolutionary shift toward software-defined capabilities, while simultaneously media, controller architectures, virtual infrastructure integrations, and workload patterns are all simultaneously changing. In the midst of such change, it is more important than ever to be attentive to what really matters, and in a changing market, what matters is not always clear. In our view, the consideration of the storage practitioner must broaden, and consider a careful balancing act that considers both new capabilities - like agility and cost-optimizing software-defined functionality - and foundational storage underpinnings that are too easy to take for granted. In this product profile, we've turned our sights on a recent product introduction from IBM - the Storwize V5000 - to consider how IBM is integrating a broad swatch of new capabilities while building those capabilities on a field proven and deeply architected storage foundation.
Storage has long been a major source of operational and architectural challenges for IT practitioners, but today these challenges are most felt in the virtual infrastructure. The challenges are sprung from the physicality of storage – while the virtual infrastructure has made IT entirely more agile and adaptable than ever before, storage still depends upon digital bits that are permanently stored on a physical device somewhere within the data center.
For practitioners who have experienced the pain caused by this – configuration hurdles, painful data migrations, and even disasters – the idea of software-defined storage likely sounds somewhat ludicrous. But the term also holds tremendous potential to change the way IT is done by tackling this one last vestige of the traditional, inflexible IT infrastructure.
The reality is that software-defined storage isn’t that far away. In the virtual infrastructure, a number of vendors have long offered Virtual Storage Appliances (VSAs) that can make storage remarkably close to software-defined. These solutions allow administrators to easily and rapidly deploy storage controllers within the virtual infrastructure, and equip either networked storage pools or the direct-attached storage within a server with enterprise-class storage features that are consistent and easily managed by the virtual administrator, irrespective of where the virtual infrastructure is (in the cloud, or on premise). Such solutions can make comprehensive storage functionality available in places where it could never be had before, allow for higher utilization of stranded pools of storage (such as local disk in the server), and enable a homogeneous management approach even across many distributed locations.
The 2012-2013 calendar years have brought an increasing amount of attention and energy in the VSA marketplace. While the longest established, major vendor VSA solution in the marketplace has been HP’s StoreVirtual VSA, in 2013 an equally major vendor – VMware – introduced a similar, software-based, scale-out storage solution for the virtual infrastructure – VSAN. While VMware’s VSAN does not directly carry a VSA moniker, and in fact stands separate from VMware’s own vSphere Storage Appliance, VSAN has an architecture very similar to the latest generation of HP’s own StoreVirtual VSA. Both of these products are scale-out storage software solutions that are deployed in the virtual infrastructure and contain solid-state caching/tiering capabilities that enhance performance and make them enterprise-ready for production workloads. VMware’s 2013 announcement finally meant HP is no longer the sole major vendor (Fortune 500) with a primary storage VSA approach. This only adds validation to other vendors who have long offered VSA-based solutions, vendors like FalconStor, Nexenta, and StorMagic.
We’ve turned to a high level assessment of five market leaders who are today offering VSA or software storage in the virtual infrastructure. We’ve assessed these solutions here with an eye toward how they fit as primary storage for the virtual infrastructure. In this landscape, we’ve profiled the key characteristics and capabilities critical to storage systems fulfilling this role. At the end of our assessment, clearly each solution has a place in the market, but not all VSA solutions are ready for primary storage. Those that are, may stand to reinvent the practice of storage in customer data centers.