Breaking the Storage Silo: Virtualization

Photo via Don Jennings (click to see his SNW write-up)

Last week, Storage Networking World (SNW), the “World’s Largest Storage, Data Center and IT Infrastructure Conference” brought together a couple thousand people to hear the latest in storage optimization and innovation. With the big trends of virtualization, convergence and cloud computing, it is without a doubt that the role of the storage administrator is evolving. While streamlining roles can help improve operational expenses, when it comes to storage, data availability and data integrity must be maintained. There are a number of solutions that are looking to transform and potentially chip away at the traditional storage administrator’s role.

Virtualization Ripples to Storage

While server virtualization has delivered lots of value to companies and helped to increase utilization and improve costs of servers, the impact on storage has not been as positive. Storage expenses and operations can be negatively impacted for solutions that are not optimized for virtual environments. Last year, Wikibon researched what is needed for the storage industry to integrate better with VMware environments. Wikibon is revisiting this research and storage solutions are delivering more value for VMware environments; VAAI is increasing the performance of virtual environments, integrations with vCenter simplifying management, and products are coming to market designed explicitly for, rather than being retrofitted for virtualization. Wikibon recently spoke with Tintri, a new startup that just emerged from stealth mode (Duncan Epping wrote a great article on this new approach to virtual machine aware storage). Tintri has developed a purpose built appliance that is native in virtualization environments. This means that rather than managing LUNs or RAID groups, this NAS solution presents VMs and vdisks. Like many storage systems these days, the Tintri system has tight integration and can be managed from vCenter. One unique feature is that since all reporting and monitoring is done at the VM level, customers can finally understand the performance (IOPS and latency) of applications at the VM level. The video below is a discussion with Chris Bennett, VP of Marketing at Tintri, where David Floyer and I explore where this solution fits in the market:

Who Manages a Storage Appliance?

While desktop virtualization is very different from server virtualization, it also has an impact on storage management. Since the total desktop virtualization solution includes hypervisors, clients virtualization, desktops, storage and network components, you can see that management of the environment is not necessarily simpler than a traditional desktop solution. Rather than just handing this new application to the respective infrastructure teams, some companies (such as Xiotech) are recommending giving the storage for VDI to the desktop team. In an online poll on managing VDI, there was general agreement that adaptation of roles is required; most believed that there should be someone knowledgeable about storage that oversees the solution even if some of the management is relinquished to other groups. At a recent stop of TechTarget’s desktop virtualization roadshow with Brian Madden, Wikibon spoke with Xiotech Chief Architect, Rob Stevenson about the requirements of technology and management of VDI storage:

What Does the Storage Role Look Like Going Forward?

For the growing number of customers that have server and/or desktop virtualization deployed, there must be a readjustment of roles within the IT organization. Storage administrators can’t be content to just sit back and let these trends play out, they must be vocal about the importance of data as well as looking for opportunities to provide more value to the business and other pieces of the solution whether that be through helping deliver better application experiences, or supporting the journey of the adoption of virtualization or cloud solutions. Storage is not going away and neither are the administrators, but by seizing some of these opportunities, storage administrators can be sure that they don’t find themselves as a cost-center that will be squeezed out of money and people over time.

This topic is continued in Breaking the Storage Silo: Convergence and the IT Generalist


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  • Anonymous

    Stu – great read and thanks for the credit and link through to the post. It will be interesting to see if SNW can indeed keep up with the billing as tne “World’s Largest Storage, Data Center and IT Infrastructure Conference.” There’s certainly enough interest and as you pointed out more than a number of cool sub-themes that some may have missed.

    -Don J.

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