Best Practices: Storage provisioning steps to keep your infrastructure healthy


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Technology to the rescue?
Server virtualization has initiated a stampede of products hoping to address these new management challenges, ranging from performance management and security to cost allocation and enhanced automation.

In terms of storage, more recent advances are likely to play an expanding role. Thin provisioning has been attracting attention for several years and is being embraced by a growing number of vendors in the SAN and NAS realms. While not appropriate for all data or application profiles, it does hold significant promise for virtualized server environments where pre-allocation of large data stores is proving to be inefficient. Thin provisioning can provide a twofold benefit: storage efficiency can be better controlled, but the inherent process of allocating storage from a common pool is often simpler and faster than traditional LUN allocation. This type of oversubscription demands first-rate monitoring and management practices to avoid serious disruptions due to overconsumption.

In the realm of secondary storage, such as disk-based backup, data deduplication technology will have particular value for virtualized environments. As disk-based approaches involving techniques like snapshots and proxy servers become more accepted, the value proposition for deduplication grows and will become a standard for secondary data storage in virtualized environments.

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Meanwhile, the need for management tools that provide end-to-end configuration, change management and monitoring represents a huge opportunity for vendors. In SAN environments, tools that offer end-to-end visibility are entering the market and this need will be further addressed as N_Port ID Virtualization adoption broadens. Storage vendors are enhancing their management capabilities to better support virtualized servers, with some even integrating management functions into VMware's VirtualCenter. At the other end, server configuration, change and patch management tools will likely expand and improve to encompass storage in the future.

Server virtualization is a disruption to traditional infrastructure practices that extends well beyond the server realm. For this reason, a server virtualization project must be approached as an overall IT infrastructure redesign project both in terms of what must be delivered and how, and how well it must be understood.

This was first published in May 2008

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