NetApp's Virtual Storage Strategy Crystallizes

Beyond quickly provisioning virtual volumes, NetApp aims to ease management while taking into account the high availability and disaster recovery complications that crop up when virtualization is thrown into the mix.

The worlds of server virtualization and storage were forever united once EMC bought VMware a couple of years ago. Now more and more storage vendors are releasing virtualization strategies. Recently, for instance, Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) of Sunnyvale, CA, acquired Onaro to expand the NetApp Manageability Software family with new capabilities for storage service management.

Patrick Rogers, vice president of solutions marketing at NetApp sees all this as part of an ongoing evolution that will probably shape the next few years of storage – the coordination of virtualized servers with virtualized storage in a way that retains versatility and flexibility. After all, with more and more enterprise data centers transforming physical servers into virtual machines, it would be impossible to avoid major complexity without a coordinated design for networked storage.

"IT staffs encounter problems on a regular basis while trying to meet backup and restore, provisioning of storage, disaster recovery and high availability requirements," said Rogers.

According to Rogers, administrators are now trying to compress ten virtual machines worth of backup data into one physical server's nightly backup window. This can result in severe performance constraints, something VMware has been working to reduce in recent months.

One solution is the implementation of snapshot technology. Rogers characterizes this as a non-disruptive and non-performance degrading way to ensure that backups are completed reliably. But for this to be feasible, the speed of restoration for virtual machines is obviously a key requirement. He is a big fan of conducting restore operations from a snapshot as this can greatly simplify and accelerate the process.

FlexVol

Another goal of storage virtualization is to be able to provision new virtual disks, storage volumes and virtual machines much faster than can be done using today's largely manual processes. Technology such as NetApp FlexVol has been developed to enable storage administrators to create and expand storage volumes dynamically on-the-fly.

NetApp's FlexVol makes it possible to create virtual volumes that can be managed and moved independently of the physical storage these virtual volumes reside upon. This FlexVol storage virtualization technology, said Rogers, can be used to lower your overhead, avoid capital expenses, and reduce disruption and risk.

For storage virtualization to make sense, though, it has to be play well with ongoing disaster recovery (DR) strategies. But the reality of storage virtualization in a DR setting cannot yet match its server equivalent.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.






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