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VMware gets deeper into storage with vSphere 5

Storage played a big part in VMware’s vSphere 5 launch Tuesday, as the vendor introduced a new software product called vSphere Storage Appliance and made enhancements in the areas of storage management and provisioning, replication and disaster recovery in virtual environments.

“Storage plays a central part in what we’re doing [with vSphere 5],” VMware senior product marketing manager Mike Adams said. “A lot of it has to do with advancing the cloud, but we’re also trying to help people become more efficient with storage.”

vSphere Storage Appliance is for SMBs, and lets them turn internal disks into shared storage that is required to reap the benefits of vSphere. Customers load the software onto a server and can point it at one or two additional ESXi targets to create a storage pool – similar to products such as Hewlett-Packard’s Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA). The appliance will cost $5,995 as a standalone product and $7,995 as part of a bundle with vSphere 5.

The first version is limited to three servers. “This is for SMB customers who can’t afford or don’t have the know-how to set up a SAN,” Adams said. “They can use vMotion for live migration and VMware HA for failover of virtual machines. They both require shared storage.”

Other new storage features from the vSphere rollout included:

Storage Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS). This extends the DRS feature from the compute side to storage, helping customers quickly provision virtual machines to storage pools. DRS takes advantage of new vStorage APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA) to place data and load balance based on I/O and available capacity.

Profile-Driven Storage. This lets users map VMs to storage levels based on service level, availability or performance needs. VMs running applications that need the highest performance can be mapped to tier one storage, with less critical apps mapped to lower tiers. Customers associate tiers with service levels for performance and available capacity.

vSphere Replication. Building replication into Site Recover Manager (SRM) 5 removes the need for array-based replication, allowing customers to replicate data between different types of storage systems. It also adds automated failback and planned migration between data center capabilities. And while VMware presenters didn’t talk much about it during the public launch, the vendor also rewrote the code for its VMware HA DR product.

VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI) support for thin provisioning, NAS hardware acceleration. vSphere will inform arrays when files are deleted or moved by Storage vMotion so the space can be reclaimed. It also monitors capacity on thin provisioned LUNS and warns users when they are running out of physical space to avoid oversubscription with thin provisioning. The new hardware acceleration for NAS includes a full file clone that enables the NAS device to clone virtual disks, similar to the VMware’s full copy feature for block arrays. It also has a thick virtual disk feature that lets administrators reserve space for an entire virtual disk. Previous versions of vSphere always created a virtual disk as a thin provisioned disk.

vSphere 5 also adds NFS support for its Storage I/O Control feature that prioritizes I/O of virtual machines in shared storage to reduce latency.

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