Part of Wikibon's 2012 vSphere 5 User Survey
In July 2012, Wikibon conducted a Web survey of VMware users and partners who had adopted or were in the process of adopting vSphere 5. The survey explored vSphere 5 adoption experiences with a focus on storage. We found a greater than expected vSphere 5 upgrade activity and a high level of satisfaction with the storage value derived from the upgrade. Respondents recommended that those embarking on a vSphere 5 upgrade plan and test and monitor to a fault, and focus on both capacity and IO performance in configuring their storage solutions.
The survey explored vSphere 5 adoption experiences with a focus on storage. The vast majority of sample was drawn at random by email from the Wikibon community, augmented by social media contacts. The survey was completed over the Internet using a SurveyMonkey Web questionnaire with an incentive drawing for an iPad. Thanks to everyone who participated and congratulations to the iPad winner, Merlin Boissonneault of St. George, BC, Canada who is a Principal at MDB Heavy Industries, a healthcare consulting company.
What follows is our analysis of the results, including a list out of open-ended responses to questions concerning tips, best practices, and observations of vSphere 5 and storage issues. The analysis is based both on survey and user and vendor interview results, interactions with the Wikibon community members and other research we’ve performed over the past 12 months.
We obtained 158 valid responses representing a good mix of VMware end-users (64%), partners (21%), and resellers (15%). In addition, we conducted six in-depth interviews with vSphere 5 users and partners identified by a few storage vendors. End-users were spread fairly evenly across industries and represented a wide variety of enterprise sizes. The median 2012 IT budget was $1-$5M, with 15% of the sample having a budget of <$100K and 12% >$100M.
Predominant VMware vSphere Version
At the time of the survey, 60% of respondents identified themselves as predominantly using vSphere 5.0. Resellers (typically smaller in size) were the most aggressive in terms of vSphere 5 adoption.
Respondents reported a median percntage of the site workload that was virtualized in the 70-90% range. Higher levels of virtualization were associated with vSphere 5 adoption. Partners and resellers – with higher levels of skills and incentives to stay abreast of the latest technology – reported higher levels of virtualization than did end-users.
vSphere 5 Status
We were surprised at the velocity of adoption that we saw in our survey. While partners and resellers were leading the way in vSphere 5 adoption, 52% of end-users reported being in at least production mode with vSphere 5. While the sample size was small, business services and healthcare were the vertical industries furthest along in adoption. Our in-depth interviews suggested that VDI was an important driver for virtualization in healthcare and education.
IT budget was a good predictor of vSphere 5 adoption status for end-users. Enterprises with medium-sized budgets ($500M-$10M) tended to be further along to full adoption than either smaller or larger enterprises. Perhaps owing to scope and scale of the transition (and the requirement for more extensive planning and testing), enterprises with IT budgets >$10M tend to be less fully vSphere 5 adopted than even small enterprises.
Reasons for Upgrading to vSphere 5
Respondents could select multiple reasons for upgrading to vSphere 5. Having a policy of staying current, performance, and improved management were the most popular. Partners, of course, were especially motivated to ensure that their own software application was up-to-date. A few in-depth interview respondents noted how easy it was to do the vSphere 5 upgrade compared to their experience with the 4.0 upgrade. Storage integration was often cited as an important factor to the decision to upgrade to vSphere 5.
Applications Not Virtualized
While some end-users reported 100% virtualization including ERP and other business process software, some applications remain on the virtualization frontier. Oracle (Databases and ERP) and Microsoft (Exchange and SQL) were the most frequently mentioned by name (about 1/3 of the respondents). Legacy apps, highly demanding apps, and those without support for virtualization were also frequently cited. Some end-users reported that virtualization support was becoming a selection requirement for application providers in their enterprises.
vSphere 5 Storage Value Provided
A significant majority of respondents (88%) characterized their vSphere 5 storage-related experience as meeting or exceeding their expectations for value. Only 12% were disappointed.
End-users tended to have a less positive experience as they near full deployment than do partners and resellers. Partners and resellers, in contrast, tend to be much more positive once they get to full deployment than they are earlier in the adoption process, while end-users tend to feel best about vSphere before they‘ve actually gone through the deployment process. This may be a function of unreasonable expectations or planning. This underscores the importance of understanding that the return on virtualization and successful upgrades are significant, but require hard work and that thorough planning and testing yield the best experience in the end.
vSphere 5 Storage Tips and Best Practices
VMware practitioners, a majority of whom were deploying or using vSphere 5 in production, have a lot of advice for others following down their path. They most frequently cite planning and preparation as their top guidance, focusing on scaling and configuring storage appropriately for the workload. As one University IT exec put it, "You need to test, and test, and test your applications. Make sure you understand what’s going on in your network. Understand your users’ needs and expectations. And even when you think you’ve tested and you’ve done enough, you probably need to do some more.”
Sizing and configuring storage was a key challenge. One respondent recommended that users should “size storage appropriately for both capacity and IOPs performance.” Another said users needed to focus on “understanding the aggregate IO requirements of your entire infrastructure and design storage for maximum consolidation capability.” Another said that you should “Always plan for more storage than you think you need.”
This extends to monitoring performance as well. One respondent would admonish his peers to "know the maximum IOPs rating of every datastore and monitor how close you are to it.”
What Differentiates Storage Vendors for Virtualization
The quality of integration features and functionalities stood out as the most often-cited differentiation factor between storage vendors when it comes to virtualization. Cost/pricing/performance and “ease” were secondary, but also frequently mentioned. Respondents also often pointed at specific features/functions that were important differentiators for them. VAAI-related offerings were an important distinction between vendors. SSD was a particularly important storage vendor differentiator as well.
What is Needed to Make Storage in VMware Environments Better?
Respondents had a wide range of opinions about what was need to make storage in VMware better. Data protection (replication, SRM, snapshots, disaster recovery, and back-ups) and management and monitoring (more detailed performance metrics, per VM visibility, testing, and performance monitoring) were the most frequently cited areas for improvement. Storage performance (including multipathing, right sizing storage, and caching) and storage network support (NFS was an oft mentioned topic) also garnered a lot of interest. Some respondents were looking for more ease of use (i.e., reducing management complexity, ease of deployment for users).
Conclusions and Recommendations
In this study, Wikibon found livelier than expected vSphere 5 upgrade activity and a high level of satisfaction with the storage value derived from the upgrade. Respondents recommended that those embarking on a vSphere 5 upgrade plan and test and monitor to a fault, and focus on both capacity and IO performance in configuring their storage solutions.
Action Item: Storage has been one of the most challenging aspects of virtualiztion. As such,from a storage perspective, practitioners should be patient and deliberate as they approach their vSphere 5 upgrade. Some respondents noted that the vSphere 5 upgrade was easier than the upgrade to vSphere 4.0 but emphasized that you still have to do your homework. Plan your configuration for capacity and performance and test and monitor accordingly. Effective storage-related integration is hard work, but the payoffs are significant.
Footnotes: The survey also asked about multi-hypervisor environments; see analysis of this in the article VMware's hypervisor hold may be waning.