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Managing storage for virtual server environments

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Plug-ins fill the management gap

Storage vendors recognized the importance of tight integration between storage and server virtualization and have worked to develop software integration with existing virtualization management tools like VMware’s vCenter Server. VMware offers a solid set of vSphere APIs that allows third-party vendors to integrate their products with vSphere. Also, vCenter Server has a plug-in architecture that makes it easy for third-party plug-ins to seamlessly integrate with the vCenter Server admin interface. Plug-ins appear as a tab inside the vSphere Client, and their behavior and appearance can be customized. This allows options or information that’s specific to a particular object like a VM, host or cluster, to be displayed.

STORAGE VENDORS' vCENTER SERVER PLUG-INS

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Enlarge STORAGE VENDORS' vCENTER SERVER PLUG-INS diagram.

Not all storage vendors were quick to develop vCenter Server plug-ins, but most of the major storage vendors today offer plug-ins that allow their storage arrays to be monitored and managed from within vCenter Server. Each vendor’s storage plug-in typically only supports specific storage array models and families, and the plug-in’s functionality and features vary from vendor to vendor. Generally, storage plug-ins may offer these capabilities:

  • Simplified expansion of virtual datastores. LUNs are created and presented to hosts, which then create datastores such as VMFS volumes from them. To increase the size of a datastore, the underlying LUN on the storage array needs to be increased first. The plug-in allows both the LUN and VMFS volume to be increased from the same console.
  • Storage provisioning. Storage admins can assign chunks of storage to virtual environments; this allows virtualization administrators to create and size their own LUNs and manage the configuration of the storage.
  • Storage management. A plug-in can give virtualization administrators the ability to manage storage array capabilities like LUN masking and thin provisioning, set multi-pathing and tiering policies, optimize I/O settings and define access lists.
  • Automated VM storage mapping. This type of plug-in lets you monitor and manage the physical/virtual relationships among the virtual machines, hosts and storage arrays. This can help the virtualization admin by mapping between the virtualization identifier and the storage array identifier for the same disk.
  • View detailed storage information. This brings information from the virtualization layer and the storage layer into a unified view, and lets you see the exact details of the physical storage layer from within the virtualization console.
  • Physical storage health monitoring. This capability provides information on the physical health of storage arrays so virtualization admins will know when physical hardware fails or becomes degraded.
  • VM cloning. The cloning of VMs is basically just a data copy job that can be offloaded to the array, which can do it more efficiently. This is especially useful in virtual desktop environments that have larger VM density.
  • Backup and recovery at the storage layer. This allows you to create point-in-time snapshots on the storage array of VM datastores. You can then mount the snapshot and restore VMs from it as needed.

This was first published in June 2011

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