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Top virtual storage management tips of 2015

When it comes to managing virtual server environments, readers were most interested in technologies new to the market, such as Docker containers and VMware VVOLs.

Even with software-defined storage and hyper-convergence marketed toward virtual server environments, managers working with virtual machines still need to know how to best provide storage and performance to those workloads. That often means that virtual storage management still comes down to working with traditional storage. However, there are more technologies available today that are meant to make virtual environments more efficient and change the way they're managed.

In several cases, the virtual storage management tips SearchVirtualStorage readers were looking for most in 2015 had to do with those new technologies. VMware Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) are out in full force, and Docker containers are starting to make their way into the enterprise. Meanwhile, hyper-convergence continues to intrigue IT professionals, but many still don't have a total grasp on working with the technology.

To find out what virtual storage management advice administrators want to learn about the most, we took a look back at the most popular expert advice on SearchVirtualStorage in 2015.

How to size LUNs

VVOLs focus on getting rid of the need to size and zone logical unit numbers (LUNs), but most storage admins still have to deal with the cumbersome task of provisioning. So, it's no surprise readers want to know whether a small number of larger LUNs or a large number of smaller LUNs will make managing their environments easier. Virtualization expert Brien Posey weighed in on the issue, and he said considerations such as how the LUN will be used affect the answer. For a large file store, a large LUN might be the best option. But in an environment where load balancing and performance is important, carving up several smaller LUNs may be a better option.

VVOLS: What to expect when using the new technology

VMware had been teasing its VVOLs -- a vSphere 6 feature that allows data to be provisioned and managed at the virtual machine level -- for years. When the feature was finally launched in 2015, and the first major storage vendors began supporting the technology, questions arose about what it does and how it can change virtual storage management. Arun Taneja, founder of analyst firm Taneja Group, took a deep dive into how VVOLs work to bring users the key takeaways after the first few months on the market. According to Taneja, VVOLs can be used alongside other VMware features, such as Virtual Machine File System and Virtual SAN, and they support all major protocols. However, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. VVOLs are still in the development stage, and VMware customers can expect more storage arrays to add support for the technology over the next year.

How to choose a hyper-converged system

With the hyper-converged market expanding as it did in 2015, it's more important than ever for those looking to implement the technology to weigh their options. Expert Jon Toigo, of Toigo Partners International, compiled a checklist of considerations for hyper-converged system buyers. According to Toigo, users should consider how well the hyper-converged system makes use of an existing infrastructure, how the system is managed, and whether the system supports DRAM and flash for enhanced performance.

How to integrate Docker containers

Over the past year, vendors such as EMC, Coho Data and Dell have added support for Docker containers. Containerization in a virtual environment allows applications sharing one operating system to be isolated from each other to better provide sufficient CPU. But best practices for providing storage for containers differs from providing storage for virtual machines. According to Storage Switzerland's George Crump, containerization usually requires less CPU than virtual machines, but it is important to note that containers' CPU requirements are more variable. Because Docker environments can easily scale from a few containers to thousands, they look more like a virtual desktop infrastructure environment than virtual server environment -- therefore, hybrid storage systems that combine flash and hard disk drives are often the best bet.

The best way to avoid common hyper-converged configuration issues

One of the appeals of hyper-converged technology is easy deployment, but there are still common implementation hurdles. According to Posey, different hyper-converged systems have varying nuances when it comes to deployment, but most provide the option for either a manual or automatic setup mode. Administrators still need to accurately enter information regarding the IP address that will be used, domain names, identifying failover clusters and whether network adapters on the nodes will be saved for out-of-band management.

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