Every presentation at the NetApp user conference mentioned VMWare multiple times. NetApp is riding the server virtualization coattails, and riding them hard – with good reason.
Most server virtualization projects are aiming at the myriads of small servers supporting tier-2 and tier-3 applications with direct-attach storage (DAS) or tier-2 storage networks. As previously discussed on Wikibon, the storage and backup systems that are currently used to support the racks of servers are unlikely to be able to support a virtualized server environment without significant re-architecting. Care will have to be taken to avoid major increases in backup software costs.
The key requirements for supporting the storage requirements of a typical VMWare implementation are:
- Flexible architecture – many types of block- and file-based storage implementations will need to be migrated with many protocols. Having a single basic virtualized architecture that will handle all this with common management tools is a significant advantage in a typical server virtualization project.
- Key Functionality – a number of technologies such as cloning are useful in supporting new approaches to backup and recovery.
- Skill and knowledge to design, plan, and support an appropriate storage infrastructure
NetApp is well positioned in the first two items, even with some of the limitations in the virtualization approach. NetApp have ambitious plans to support the migration of expertise from in-house services to the channel. However, for medium or large-scale projects it would be prudent to ensure that some of NetApp’s new feet on the street are directed to your installation.
Action Item: If your IT shop is not a general purpose NetApp storage user, NetApp should be included in the RFP shortlist for VMWare (or other) storage virtualization projects. Ensure that NetApp has direct skin in the design and support of your solutions. Whatever solution is adopted, ensure that implementation and operational expertise is developed and retained in house; this new architecture will be a foundation for many years to come.