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Virtual I/O for storage networks

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Virtual I/O selection strategies

Determining which virtual I/O strategy makes the most sense for your data center will depend largely on your immediate needs

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along with your long-term goals. For example, if the primary concern is to improve storage and network I/O performance at the host layer, it makes sense to purchase a card that can provide network interface-level I/O virtualization instead of buying a basic 10 GigE NIC. This would allow you to more efficiently use the 10 Gbps bandwidth and guarantee levels of service to particular mission-critical workloads.

If you’re in the process of refreshing or expanding the network or storage infrastructure, then adding components that understand I/O virtualization deserves serious consideration. Virtual I/O at the switch layer can be looked at as more of an incremental upgrade and a perfect complement to an eventual virtual I/O network interface card implementation.

Virtual I/O gateways, or private I/O fabrics, also deserve serious consideration for companies looking to refresh their existing infrastructures, improve performance and provide greater flexibility. These products can provide “future proofing” against the ever-changing I/O market.

Regardless of the path chosen, virtual I/O should deliver significantly more flexibility and a more dynamic infrastructure that’s able to keep up with the demands of the server infrastructure. All three methods should allow for better return on the I/O investment and provide performance guarantees for mission-critical applications, which should extend the ROI on the server virtualization project.

BIO: George Crump is president of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on storage and virtualization.

This was first published in March 2012

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