VMware Lays Virtual Storage Groundwork

Though complexities abound, VMware is working to simplify storage management for virtual environments.

Now that it is has conquered the server landscape, VMware is turning its eye to storage.

For example, the company is working to reduce the time required for virtual backups. A snapshot capability provided by VMware's VMFS (virtual machine file system) interface is also widely used for online backups, archiving copies of virtual machines and for system rollback to a last known good configuration. In addition, VMware virtualization can be utilized to increase the flexibility of storage provisioning.

Further, VMware has established the VMware Infrastructure. As well as all the server components and VMFS, it includes VMware Consolidated Backup and VMware Storage VMotion. This latter product enables live migration of disk files from virtual machines (VMs) across storage arrays.

As a result, a storage administrator can relocate disk files between storage locations without interrupting service availability or impacting transaction integrity. This opens the door to non-disruptive migrations, ease of changing out arrays and freeing up more storage capacity.

All this, of course, is causing some to rethink their traditional approach to storage. Jon Bock, senior product marketing manager for VMware Inc. of Palo Alto, CA, believes that VMware has become a major force of change in the way that companies use and manage storage.

"Analyst research has shown that customers frequently choose to refresh their servers and their storage architecture at the same time as they deploy VMware virtualization, buying new storage to take advantage of technology advances," said Bock. "VMware provides customers increased flexibility and choice in order to match their needs and resources—flexibility in how they provision storage, dynamic flexibility in where data is stored, and valuable capabilities for copying and protecting data."

He stated, for example, that users can choose to provision individual disks for individual virtual machines just as they did in their physical environment. VMware also gives them the option of provisioning a pool of storage that can be allocated to multiple virtual machines as they need it.

There are, however, challenges inherent in marrying up server and storage virtualization. Not all virtualized storage is the same. There can be file-based virtualization, block-based virtualization, and other forms of virtualization using completely different arrangements such as Virtual Tape Library (VTL). Vendors, too, take different approaches. Therefore, requirements differ depending on the type of storage needed.

"One of the most important things for a customer to consider when deploying VMware virtualization is how to leverage the benefits of the VMware Infrastructure platform to help them manage their storage more efficiently," said Bock. "They need to carefully examine the type of workloads the storage requires to support in order to maximize their investments in VMware virtualization."

VMware addresses storage in VM environments in several different ways. First off, they provide a storage interface that is designed and optimized for virtualization. According to Bock, VMFS has been in the works for over three generations to give users an enhanced performance experience, while at the same time making a simple management solution for virtualized environments. It has also been designed to enable other features that are intended to create an ideal virtualization atmosphere.

"VMFS was designed to enable important VMware features such as live virtual machine migration using VMware's VMotion, live disk migration with Storage VMotion, automated restarting of virtual machines following hardware failures using VMware High Availability and non-disruptive backups using VMware's Consolidated Backup," said Bock.

Bock also states that VMware's virtualization software standardizes the storage interface, which provides features for virtualizing storage into OS running inside VM's. This permits Storage VMotion to perform live migrations with zero downtime. On top of that, it allows you to carry out hardware maintenance without scheduling downtime and disrupting business operations.

No doubt encouraged by its EMC relationship, VMware is working more closely within the storage ecosystem to form partnerships. This allows joint customers to leverage greater value, said Bock.

"Certification of storage arrays and storage virtualization devices means that customers can deploy their storage infrastructure and have confidence that it is tested and supported by VMware and their preferred storage vendor," he said. Another way we are working with partners is in the development of deployment guides and best practices that will help customers to architect and deploy their virtual infrastructures."

Bock also noted that the company is partnering with storage vendors to provide built-in integration between products such as VMware Site Recovery Manager and other kinds of storage software.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.

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