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Still some pain when it comes to storage for virtual machines

We've come a long way, baby, but we still haven't worked out all the kinks in configuring and provisioning VM storage.

Gone are the days when storage systems and virtual servers seemed to be mortal enemies, creating configuration and provisioning headaches for storage admins and virtualization jockeys alike. Both sides of the equation have come a long way, with storage designed with virtualization in mind and new tools on the virtual server side to integrate better with arrays.

But the storage-virtual machine (VM) world is still not a perfect place. Our latest survey finds companies have a whopping 825 VMs deployed, and they're all hungry for their piece of the storage pie. Block storage is still the most popular form for supporting VMs, with 54% of our survey respondents using Fibre Channel (FC) SAN storage and 16% using iSCSI arrays. Those two storage protocols are also the most popular choices for users planning to add storage for virtual machines this year: 67% are considering FC and 25% have their eye on iSCSI.

Besides having a ton of VMs to support, some shops are still running into situations where storage and VMs won't play nice together. Forty-three percent said virtualizing their servers has created a need for more capacity, while 17% said performance problems, VM backup issues, or increased CPU and DRAM demands are gumming up the works. On the bright side, 32% of respondents say they don't have any problems or challenges specific to VM storage.

The 43% who have seen capacity requirements climb and who are now pushing a shopping cart at the storage store, are looking for an average of 238 TB of additional capacity. That number is skewed a bit by companies with VMs with voracious storage appetites; on the more modest end of the scale, 61% plan to check out with 100 TB or less of new capacity.

As those shoppers peruse storage vendors' aisles for capacity (67%), they also have price (66%) and high availability (63%) in mind. Other key criteria include basic speed (55%) and compatibility with already installed storage gear (45%). And these storage shoppers aren't fooling around; they want all the bells and whistles expected of enterprise storage, and maybe even a horn and buzzer. Topping the desired features list are automated tiering (57%), thin provisioning (51%), compression (42%) and dedupe (40%).

Some users bolstering their VM storage infrastructure are also interested in fortifying other areas in their environments -- 20% have backup products in their purchase plans and 16% are in the market for management software.

virtual servers in companies
virtual server storage
virtualized server issues
Storage capacity purchasing intentions
virtual server considerations
Storage management features

BIO: Rich Castagna is TechTarget's VP of Editorial/Storage Media Group.

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What about backup apps built specifically for virtual machines?
The backup part of the VM storage scenario has actually been well addressed. Initially, it was perhaps the biggest stumbling block as traditional backup apps essentially stepped all over their own toes in virtual server environments. That created the opening for the VM-specific backup apps. Now, however, pretty much all backup apps have an option or special APIs/interfaces to work well with VMs--so just about any backup should be able to handle virtualized servers. The things to watch out for is support for both VMs and physical servers if you have a mixed environment, support for tape if you have a creaky old tape library in your backup process and support for multiple hypervisors--just about everyone supports VMware, but not all support Hyper-V, KVM, Citrix, etc.

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