When looking at the adoption of VMware, one of the surprises is the relatively rapid uptake among smaller companies. But when viewed from the perspective of "good enough" technology, it actually makes sense. The workload balancing, performance, and availability concerns of large enterprises in mission-critical and business-critical applications act as a temporary constraint. But for smaller companies, VMware may be "good enough" technology, and the benefits of improving resource utilization offsets any concerns. Until today, however, one constraint still existed, and that is the cost and complexity of managing shared external storage.
From a purchase-cost-per-raw-bit-of-capacity basis, there is no cheaper storage than the internal disk drives of a server. But just like the processors in most companies' un-virtualized environments, this low-cost storage is typically inefficiently utilized.
Virtualizing the VMware ESX Server's Internal Storage
To solve this problem, StorMagic recently introduced the SvSAN for VMware ESX servers. The software installs as a VMware ESX server application and virtualizes the storage within the server. For the majority of companies, the internal storage of the ESX server is more than enough capacity to handle the storage requirements of the other applications running on the server.
Growing Beyond the Internal Storage Capacity
Over time, environments will grow and may require more capacity and or performance than is available within the server. To address that issue, the user can add an external JBOD array and expand beyond the original 2TB. StorMagic also enables a non-disruptive upgrade from the storage virtual appliance (SVA) to a dedicated SAN.
For systems administrators requiring a high-availability environment, StorMagic provides data mirroring between multiple ESX servers, as an option. By enabling this option, administrators can also take advantage of the VMotion capabilities of ESX servers.
Simplified Management through VMware Virtual Center Integration
In addition to the cost of external storage, smaller customers are often less-well equipped to deal with the management complexity of an external storage area network (SAN). StorMagic has addressed this problem by integrating their storage management capabilities with VMware Virtual Center.
Currently, the SvSAN software is available as a free download from StorMagic's website. This download enables administrators to virtualize up to 2TBs of internal storage within a single ESX server. Software licenses can be upgraded to manage higher capacities and provide high-availability options.
Action Item: Administrators who are creating initial VMware environments should evaluate the no-cost SvSAN software from StorMagic. This will enable them to avoid the cost and complexity of managing external storage. Current VMware customers that are considering leveraging the VMotion capabilities of ESX servers, should also evaluate the SvSAN high-availability options.