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DISASTER RECOVERY/COMPLIANCE

APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT

DATA CENTER MANAGEMENT


STORAGE ARCHITECTURE
Handbook

BI/APPLICATIONS
VIRTUALIZATION

NETWORKING
HEALTH IT

SECURITY
CLOUD

PERFORMANCE

SCALABILITY

Buyers Checklist to
Purpose-Built Storage
HYPERVISOR-RELATED
FEATURES AND STORAGE
MANAGEMENT

for Virtual Servers DATA PROTECTION

When virtual servers began to proliferate, storage systems often


VIRTUAL SERVER STORAGE
became the bottleneck; but storage built specifically to support FEATURE CHECKLIST
virtual servers erases many of those problems.

HYPERVISOR-AWARE
STORAGE PRODUCT
CATEGORIES
PERFORMANCE

Buyers Checklist to Purpose-Built


Storage for Virtual Servers

When virtual server technology gradually emphasis on performance and agility. Along the
became dominant in most data centers, it soon way, many of these systems have broken away
Home
became apparent that many traditional storage from the traditional models and methods of
Performance
systems werent up to the task of serving the configuring, provisioning and managing stor-
new virtualized server environment. Perfor- age, with a decidedly hypervisor-specific ap-
Scalability mance issues cropped up almost immediately proach to these tasks.
as SAN and network-attached storage (NAS) In this Buyers Checklist, we describe how
Hypervisor- systems struggled to deliver the IOPS and these storage systems differ from traditional
Related Features throughput virtual machines (VMs) required. arrays, provide insights into some of their
and Storage The situation even spawned its own terminol- unique features and offer guidance on evaluat-
Management
ogy to describe the new bottlenecks caused ing, purchasing and deploying these storage
by VMs with terms such as I/O blender effect systems.
Data Protection
and boot storm entering the enterprise storage
Virtual Server
lexicon.
Storage Feature Storage vendors reacted fairly quickly, as did PERFORMANCE
Checklist hypervisor vendors, to help address some of As virtual servers are introduced into the data
these issues. But the new virtual server model center and quickly proliferate, performance is-
Hypervisor-Aware also helped to create a new category of storage sues with storage systems designed for physi-
Storage Product
array: hypervisor-aware storage systems. These cal server requirements start to crop up. While
Categories
systems are built from the ground up to provide physical servers maintain a 1:1 relationship to
storage for virtual environments, with special storage with fairly predictable performance

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PERFORMANCE

characteristics and a low degree of concurrency, While NAND flash supports tens of thousands
virtualized servers throw that simple world of IOPS, a single hard disk drive is limited to
into a frenzy of physical servers hosting VMs, a few hundred IOPS; for disk-based arrays to
and VMs running a mix of applications with scale IOPS, they depend on the paralleliza-
varying workloads. A high degree of concur- tion of a large of number of disk drives, strip-
rency where VMs and applications are in con- ing data across them, so that many disks are
tinuous pursuit of resources, including storage, at work at any given time when data is served.
Home
pushes storage systems to their performance NAND flash is superior to physical disk in its
Performance
limits and impacts the ability of storage admin- ability to support a large number of IOPS in al-
istrators to correlate applications to underlying most all aspects, including cost and complexity.
Scalability physical storage resources and components. Since the number of IOPS is typically more
To make matters worse, advanced storage relevant than throughput for VM storagebut
Hypervisor- techniques such as thin provisioning aggravate the type of applications on the VMs can affect
Related Features the problem by enabling multiple VMs to share thisemploying solid-state storage reaps im-
and Storage storage blocks, requiring the storage system mediate performance benefits. A case in point
Management
to support an even higher number of IOPS. that perfectly illustrates the relevance of IOPS
Addressing these performance challenges ef- is the well-known boot storm that occurs when
Data Protection
fectively is one of the value propositions of many VMs that share the same physical blocks
Virtual Server
hypervisor-aware storage systems, which em- of the underlying storage all boot at the same
Storage Feature ploy various techniques to achieve acceptable time and spike the required IOPS. Flash storage
Checklist performance. is one of the most effective ways of addressing
this scenario.
Hypervisor-Aware n Flash. Without question, solid-state storage That solid-state storage should be a
Storage Product
is one of the key components that enable stor- component of hypervisor-aware stor-
Categories
age systems to better support the performance age is undisputed, but where its deployed
requirements of virtualized environments. is a relevant consideration when evaluating

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PERFORMANCE

hypervisor-aware storage systems. Substituting disks where appropriate, can help keep the cost
mechanical disk drives with solid-state drives of hypervisor-aware storage systems down.
(SSDs) is the easiest way of flash-enabling a This mechanism is available in the form of
storage array; the drawback of SSDs is that only storage tiering, where mechanical disks and
data that resides on the SSDs benefits from it. solid-state storage complement each other.
Some hypervisor-aware storage systems deploy Two schools of thought exist on how to keep
flash as cache, with the advantage that all apps active data most effectively in NAND flash.
Home
benefit from it. One group of vendors champions policy-based
Performance
The amount of flashand whether its used data movement, while another espouses the
for reads only, or for reads and writesis an use of NAND flash as cache that sits in front of
Scalability important consideration. Flash can be de- mechanical disks. The latter is usually the less
ployed on the server, usually in the form of PCI complex approach since NAND flash simply
Hypervisor- Express cards; its proximity to the CPU and becomes another cache that sits between the
Related Features server memory, and reducing the number of DRAM cache and disk drives, relying on proven
and Storage transactions that have to traverse to the stor- caching algorithms to keep active data in the
Management
age system through a relatively performance- appropriate tier.
constrained interface, makes flash on the server
Data Protection
the best performing flash deployment option. n Quality of Service (QoS). The ability to pri-
Virtual Server
oritize data by application and data type en-
Storage Feature n Storage tiering. While the number of IOPS a ables storage administrators to ensure that
Checklist storage system can support is very important, critical applications arent bogged down by less
the cost of NAND flash is still significantly critical ones. The support of QoS is a critical
Hypervisor-Aware higher than that of physical disk. Since IOPS element of a hypervisor-aware storage system,
Storage Product
requirements fluctuate, a mechanism to sup- and it should be considered a must-have crite-
Categories
port spikes when needed but thats also able to rion on anyones evaluation list. QoS is the sil-
take advantage of less-expensive mechanical ver bullet that enables putting any type of data

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SCALABILITY

and workload on a shared storage system with benefits of rapid deployment and simplicity of a
the needed safeguard to protect critical appli- converged system is in some products offset by
cations, with QoS as the arbiter to keep lower limited scalability. Last but not least, the ability
priority data and applications at bay. to scale without the need for data migration is
indispensable, especially as storage systems for
VMs can grow fairly large.
SCALABILITY
Home
A clear understanding of the scalability limits
Performance
of the hypervisor-aware storage system youre HYPERVISOR-RELATED FEATURES
about to acquire is essential to prevent unpleas- AND STORAGE MANAGEMENT
Scalability ant surprises. In a product evaluation, questions A key aspect of evaluating hypervisor-aware
about the target market, the ability to scale be- storage is how the storage system supports
Hypervisor- yond a single box and the largest deployments and integrates with hypervisors. Most storage
Related Features in which the system is in use help identify if systems support VMware vSphere and Micro-
and Storage the product meets your scalability require- soft Hyper-V; other hypervisors, such as Citrix
Management
ments. For instance, a product targeted for the XenServer and Red Hat, are usually lower pri-
small and medium-sized business market is ority and some storage systems dont support
Data Protection
likely not going to be able to scale to enterprise them at all.
Virtual Server
requirements. Capabilities that are usually not For supported hypervisors, you need to de-
Storage Feature found in storage systems, such as the ability to termine the level of integration and the sup-
Checklist use the storage system to also run VMs, need to ported APIs. In the case of VMware, youll want
be analyzed for their impact on scalability. The to know if the storage system supports the
Hypervisor-Aware
Storage Product
Categories
The ability to scale without the need for data migration is indispensable,
especially as storage systems for VMs can grow fairly large.

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HYPERVISOR-
RELATED
FEATURES
VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration vCenter for management functionality, giving
(VAAI) that enable offloading of storage tasks, vSphere administrators insight into storage ca-
such as copying and moving data and thin pro- pabilities via plug-ins (or providers) through
visioning, from the VMware hypervisor to the which vCenter can receive information about
storage array. Youll also want to know to what capabilities, health status, configuration and
degree the VMware vStorage APIs for Storage capacity from the underlying array, and display
Awareness (VASA) are supported. VASA en- it in the vCenter user interface.
Home
ables storage arrays to integrate with VMware In the case of Microsoft Hyper-V, youll need
Performance

Scalability D SPECIAL FACTORS: VM-SPECIFIC STORAGE


Hypervisor-
without question, startups are pioneering storage architectures and features that are intended to better support
Related Features virtual server environments. When evaluating hypervisor-aware storage, weighing the risk inherent to a startup and the
and Storage benefits of its products is an important exercise. You need to consider if it will be around for the long run, if its able to
Management offer adequate support, and whether the product is mature and stable. It may be prudent to have a plan B if the startup
vanishes or the product doesnt live up to its promises. These are important issues you need to address before making
Data Protection a buying decision.

Some hypervisor-aware storage only supports virtual servers and will not work with physical servers. Others only support
Virtual Server a specific hypervisor, such as VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V. Clearly, understanding whats supported is critical
to protect your investment.
Storage Feature
Checklist Discuss roadmaps during your evaluation. Since hypervisor-aware storage is still evolving, understanding future features
is important. What hypervisors are on the roadmap? What hypervisor application programming interfaces are planned?
Make sure the roadmap aligns with your business requirements.
Hypervisor-Aware
Storage Product Validate storage features that have become standard in storage arrays, from thin provisioning, snapshots and replication
Categories to compression, deduplication and cloud storage integration. Hypervisor-aware products may offer a newfangled way of
interacting with hypervisors, but they may not be up to speed with standard array features. n

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DATA
PROTECTION

to know if the array supports Windows Server components, such as disks and controllers.
2012 Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX) to enable Some hypervisor-aware storage system vendors
offloading of copy and move operations to stor- have changed the storage architecture to pro-
age arrays. Its also important to ask if the array vision and manage storage at a VM level, and
supports the Storage Management Initiative others have complemented traditional stor-
Specification (SMI-S) or Storage Management age systems with auxiliary tools that provide
Packs to enable managing storage from within that insight. The ability to correlate applica-
Home
System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012. tions on VMs to the underlying physical stor-
Performance
age, providing visibility to the full data path, is
Backing up VMs via backup an indispensable ability any hypervisor-aware
Scalability agents that run on the VMs is storage system should have.

problematic because of the over-


Hypervisor-
Related Features
head and impact on performance. DATA PROTECTION
and Storage The simplicity of spawning new VMs that
Management
One of the challenges of traditional storage inevitably result in a greater number of serv-
systems in virtualized server environments has ers, combined with the abstraction inherent to
Data Protection
been the level at which storage is provisioned virtualization, makes data protection of virtu-
Virtual Server
and managed. Traditionally, storage has been alized servers a more challenging task. Back-
Storage Feature provisioned and managed at a LUN level. A ing up VMs via backup agents that run on the
Checklist LUN is usually assigned to a physical server, VMs is problematic because of the overhead
and storage from the LUN is then assigned to and impact on performance. Backing up the
Hypervisor-Aware VMs. Without further integration between physical host can be problematic as well unless
Storage Product
the underlying storage array and the hypervi- the VMs it hosts and the applications within
Categories
sor, it can be challenging to correlate virtual- each VM are backed up in a consistent state;
ized resources to the physical storage array and (Continued on page 9)

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CHECKLIST

D VIRTUAL SERVER STORAGE FEATURE CHECKLIST


FEATURE WHY ITS IMPORTANT OPTIONS

Performance Needs to support the IOPS and throughput Solid-state storage


requirements of virtualized servers Tiering solid-state storage and disk drives
Quality of Service to prioritize critical applications
Home
Scalability Determines to what degree a storage Scalability options are product specific:
system can scale S
 caling vertically by adding processing, memory
Performance and disk resource
S
 caling horizontally by adding nodes

Scalability Hypervisor D  etermines how widely a storage APIs that enable offloading of storage tasks to
and application system can be used the storage system
programming APIs enable integration of the hypervisor Management APIs that allow the storage system
Hypervisor- interface (API) with the storage system to be managed from within the hypervisor manage-
Related Features support ment console
and Storage
Management
Ability to manage Enables visibility of the full data path from Provisioning of storage at the VM level inherently
Data Protection storage at a the VM to the spindle results in managing storage at a VM level (ideal)
virtual machine Eases identifying and remediating Provision storage at LUN level and use auxiliary
(VM) level storage-related problems methods, such as storage analytics, to relate
Virtual Server VMs and applications within the VM to physical
Storage Feature storage resources
Checklist
Convergence Combining storage and VMs in a single Systems that combine storage and VMs
factor system simplifies management and Turnkey systems optimized for virtualized
Hypervisor-Aware lowers cost server environments
Storage Product
Data protection Leverage data protection features of Snapshots and replication
Categories capabilities storage system to back up virtualized Continuous data protection
servers

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PRODUCT
CATEGORIES

(Continued from page 7) storage at the VM level. They offer out-of-box,


this requires data in memory to be flushed to full-data-path transparency from application to
disk to ensure all data is backed up and restores spindle. They are currently only available from
can be performed in an application-consistent promising startups. Traditional storage vendors
manner. Hypervisors provide APIs to aid in try to address this niche via add-ons, such as
data protection: VMware has its vStorage storage analytics that provide this degree of
API for Data Protection (VADP) and Micro- insight.
Home
softs Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS)
Performance
enables application-consistent snapshots of n Converged systems that combine storage and
VSS-enabled applications. Hypervisor-aware VMs. Products in this category provide both
Scalability storage systems can play an essential role in storage services and the ability to run VMs in
simplifying this data protection challenge via a single system. Their value proposition is to
Hypervisor- techniques such as snapshots, replication and maximize system utilization and simplify man-
Related Features continuous data protection. agement. The ability to scale and the impact of
and Storage VMs on storage performance should be your
Management
main concern when evaluating a converged sys-
HYPERVISOR-AWARE STORAGE tem. Again, products in this category are cur-
Data Protection
PRODUCT CATEGORIES rently only available from startups.
Virtual Server
Virtualization is in vogue and all storage sys-
Storage Feature tems claim to be hypervisor-aware, but some n All-flash arrays. Products in this category
Checklist products are more hypervisor-aware than oth- forgo mechanical disks and only use solid-state
ers. Heres a product grouping of hypervisor- storage to maximize performance. Theyre tar-
Hypervisor-Aware aware storage systems. geted at applications that require a very high
Storage Product
IOPS. Theyre expensive, and some products in
Categories
nSystems that manage storage at the VM level. this category lack storage features that are by
These products provision, manage and monitor now standard in enterprise arrays.

9 B U Y E R S C H E C K L I S T T O P U R P O S E - B U I LT S T O R AG E F O R V I RT UA L S E RV E R S
PRODUCT
CATEGORIES
n Fully converged storage systems. Fully con-
verged systems are integrated turnkey plat-
forms in which servers, storage, network
connectivity and software are built into a single
offering thats sold and supported by one
Buyers Checklist to Purpose-Built Storage for Virtual Servers
vendor. These turnkey systems are available is a SearchVirtualStorage.com e-publication.
from traditional storage vendors and smaller
Home Rich Castagna | VP Editorial/Storage Media Group
vendors for both VMware and Hyper-V
Ellen OBrien | Executive Editor
Performance
hypervisors.
Kim Hefner | Senior Managing Editor

Sarah Wilson | Associate Site Editor


Scalability n Traditional storage systems. The primary
Dave Raffo | Senior News Director
competitors of so-called hypervisor-aware
Sonia Lelii | Senior News Writer
Hypervisor- storage systems, which are explicitly targeted
Related Features Carol Sliwa | Senior Writer
for use with virtualized servers, are tradi-
and Storage tional storage arrays. Since almost all arrays Linda Koury | Director of Online Design
Management Neva Maniscalco | Graphic Designer
have added capabilities that benefit virtualized
servers, the gap between so-called hypervisor- Jillian Coffin | Publisher
Data Protection jcoffin@techtarget.com
aware storage systems and traditional storage
Virtual Server
systems may be small in some cases, so tradi- TechTarget
275 Grove Street, Newton, MA 02466
Storage Feature tional storage systems should be part of your www.techtarget.com
Checklist product evaluation. n 2014 TechTarget Inc. No part of this publication may be transmitted or re-
produced in any form or by any means without written permission from the
publisher. TechTarget reprints are available through The YGS Group.
Hypervisor-Aware About TechTarget: TechTarget publishes media for information technology
professionals. More than 100 focused websites enable quick access to a deep
Storage Product store of news, advice and analysis about the technologies, products and pro-
JACOB N. GSOEDL is a freelance writer and a corporate
Categories cesses crucial to your job. Our live and virtual events give you direct access to
director for business systems. He can be reached at independent expert commentary and advice. At IT Knowledge Exchange, our
social community, you can get advice and share solutions with peers and experts.
jacobslab@live.com.

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