This content is part of the Essential Guide: Managing storage for virtual environments: A complete guide

Five virtual storage platform tips for a VM environment

Adding another layer of virtualization to a virtual server environment can complicate management and design. Here's how to avoid the pitfalls.

Any time you use virtualization, it's important to avoid becoming too enamored with the technology and stay focused on the desired results.

As server virtualization continues its close association with private clouds, moving data quickly via automation is increasingly important. A virtual storage platform can support more nimble workload provisioning, avoid the fragmentation of vendor and product silos, and deliver a more consistent self-service experience.

Consistency is extremely important in delivering good results in virtual server environments, and storage virtualization or software-defined storage can help by making multivendor environments function as if they were the same, or enabling scale-out clusters of vast tracts of commodity servers with central software control.

When thinking about implementing a virtual storage platform or using software-defined storage in virtual server environments, some best practices include the following:

Tip 1: Understand the business need first.

It's easy to get wrapped up in technology options, especially cutting-edge ones. But you shouldn't pay for more performance than you need, and it can be hard to identify which features will actually eliminate the particular barriers you face. Do users need to spin up machines faster? Are you trying to cut costs? Are you burning up too much capacity on duplicated data? Are outages a major concern? Once you understand the real issues that impact users and budgets, you can solve for specific problems rather than shopping for shiny toys.

Tip 2: Avoid conflicting virtualization layers.

Every vendor has virtualization baked into their products these days. If you buy an intelligent array, appliance or management tool from one vendor, and then put a different one in front of it later, you will, at best, be wasting money on features that won't be used and, at worst, will cause conflicts that are hard to find and fix. Make sure you consider which products will be in charge of what, and don't make light of a decision to pile on another layer of virtualization later.

Tip 3: Be careful about disruptions to reporting and management.

Virtualization can disrupt your ability to discover, meter and manage your environment. The abstraction layers inherent in virtual storage can get in the way of clear visibility and break reports that worked well in a non-virtualized scenario. You should consider these impacts before you implement the technology and come up with a plan to adapt your toolsets and accommodate the new mechanics before things fall apart.

Tip 4: Evaluate the long-term cost.

As with any technology, storage virtualization is intended to make things work better, but it comes with a cost. Ensure the benefit you're aiming for is substantial and merits whatever you will pay for the virtualization layer itself. Virtual storage platforms can reduce costs over time, but the technology might not be the only way to get those benefits. Consider all the options and model the costs of each scenario to guarantee that it's worth the investment.

Tip 5: Watch for added complexity.

Layers of virtualization can make the environment hard to understand, inventory and troubleshoot. When you solve one problem, you may create another, so try to avoid putting too many bells and whistles in place. In some cases, the simplest solution is the best, so watch out for too many layers.

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