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Hot Spots: Managing storage in a virtual server world

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As server virtualization moves from the test lab to production deployments, storage managers need to deliver at least the same level of service. The problem is that server virtualization creates a layer of abstraction between the virtual hosts and the storage. To get through that layer of abstraction, IT needs tools that can see into these virtualized environments and provide the detailed information required to make intelligent decisions about them. While server virtualization can reduce the number of physical devices in the server environment, the number of applications--and the storage required for them--remains the same.

Storage and virtual servers
Storage managers should carefully consider how they'll handle the following challenges associated with managing storage within a virtualized server environment.

Visibility or the lack of it. To effectively manage your environment, you need to be able to see it and measure it. In the past, it was easy--you had one application on one server and as long as the management software could see the host bus adapter (HBA) in that server, you could correlate the infrastructure to the application. But it becomes much harder when you have applications on a virtual host that can easily transition from one physical server to another. Keeping track of the application and establishing the proper connectivity and redundancy is vitally important to maintaining high availability.

Heterogeneous environments.

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The server virtualization market is currently dominated by one player, but others are gaining traction. With no standards in this space, support will be on an application-by-application basis. While efforts are underway to create standards, these are typically multiyear efforts.

Performance implications. How will you ensure optimized storage performance for virtualized applications if you can't establish the link from the virtualized environment to the physical storage? We're talking about the ability to correlate applications to the storage and being able to not only visualize but collect performance metrics from the application to the storage. It's challenging enough in nonvirtualized environments, but with multiple applications running on a single physical server, this kind of detailed analysis is critical for determining high-growth applications and resolving performance issues.

This was first published in September 2007

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