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Working in a virtual machine environment: VM-aware storage

Last updated:December 2016

Editor's note

A virtual machine environment conserves energy, makes it easier to consolidate data and reduces the need for physical systems, which is why you can find VMs everywhere these days. But for all of the benefits the technology provides, the rise of virtual servers has presented unique challenges for storage. Thanks to random I/O generated from server virtualization, latency has increased, and mapping LUNs and volumes has become a tedious job. To overcome the problems that come with a virtual machine environment, VM-aware storage has stepped up to the plate.

VM-aware storage was designed with virtual environments in mind. To be considered VM-aware, a product needs to simplify implementation and management with software that manages the data associated with virtual machines. By improving communication between storage and the hypervisor, VM-aware storage doesn't have to rely on LUNs and the extra burden they can bring to virtualized environments.

According to vendors in the space, VM-aware storage can help users dodge the dreaded I/O blender effect, which occurs when the hypervisor becomes too overloaded. By preventing this and other issues associated with LUN and volume use, VM-aware storage allows for better performance and more efficient data migration in virtual environments.

However, the technology isn't a cure-all. There isn't an industry-standard definition for VM-aware storage, so it could be difficult for organizations to decide if what a vendor is selling is what they want. There are even technologies that perform the same function, but go by a completely different name. So how can storage administrators know if a VM-aware appliance can actually fix their virtual server storage woes?

This comprehensive guide offers a more thorough understanding of VM-aware storage. We'll walk through the basics, see how virtual machine-aware appliances compare to other storage products on the market and take a deeper look at one storage vendor that is leading the virtual machine-aware storage pack.

1Hypervisor-aware storage

Hypervisor-aware storage is a category of storage array that provides storage administrators with important information that can aid them in capacity planning and in automating and managing a virtual machine environment. If the technology sounds familiar, it's because the terms hypervisor-aware storage and VM-aware storage are often used interchangeably. But some approaches do vary.

2Where Virtual Volumes come into play

VMware Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) are a feature in vSphere6 that more efficiently provision storage in a virtual machine environment. While they solve some of the same issues as VM-aware storage, the two approaches are not interchangeable.

3One vendor is dominating the market (for now)

Of the vendors operating in the virtual machine-aware storage space, Tintri has been leading the pack. In this section, catch up on what the company has been doing in the VM-aware storage market and the products they've developed.

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