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Data storage management in a virtual data center

Server virtualization, in placing several virtual machines (VMs) onto one physical machine, provides a host of benefits, including flexibility with data storage management for the IT administrator. However, variables such as the need to prioritize the storage performance of each virtual machine, and the exponential growth of unstructured data, also introduce more complexity in storage management. At the same time, data growth is influencing the decisions IT organizations are making around storage virtualization. In this video, Ben Woo, IDC program vice president for Worldwide Storage Systems and Big Data, talks about how an organization should approach a move to a virtual data center, how this move will affect a data center’s storage system and performance, and how the roles of administrators will be impacted.

SearchVirtualStorage: What are the first steps an organization should take to move to a virtual data center?

Woo: Let’s start with storage. I think enabling storage to be able to be connected to various different elements within the data center -- various servers, both virtual and physical, and also various applications -- are the key to a successful virtualization program. I would look to virtualize storage first, servers, networks, then looking at the virtualization of applications, and then ultimately, the liberation of data … or virtualization of data objects away from those applications.

SearchVirtualStorage: How does server virtualization affect your storage performance?

Woo: Virtual servers are going to affect the storage performance in a number of ways. First of all, because many virtual machines are placed on one physical machine, all of those IOs are going to be intermixed together in going down a common path. Understanding which path is more important is the first step, so this is a physical exercise. This bus is going to be [higher] priority; that bus is going to be lower priority. Then, within each of those buses, i.e., each of those servers, you need to prioritize the storage performance of each of those virtual machines. Now, through virtualization, although you get the flexibility, there’s a little bit more complexity in its management.

SearchVirtualStorage: What capabilities do you look for in a storage system for a virtual data center?

Woo: Because of the way data is growing and the types of data we’re creating, the No. 1 key is to have flexibility between file and block and ultimately in objects as well. Block storage is still very, very important, but if you look at the type of data that we’re creating and the changes in the types of data that we’re storing, very soon over 80% of all the storage is going to be [unstructured data, i.e., file data] or object data. Ensuring that you have a path and a growth and evolution towards file-based storage becomes absolutely critical when looking at storage virtualization.

SearchVirtualStorage: How does the virtual data center change the roles of administrators, network and other areas of the data center?

Woo: The virtual data center has this element called “virtual,” which means that virtually, everybody does everything. Enabling your counterparts in network, server, even DBAs, to be able to enact and interact with the storage elements is very, very critical. Therefore, cross-functional organizations are ultimately what’s going to be needed. [This is] unlike the current approach, where we’re siloed to a specific task -- whether it’s servers, desktops versus servers, storage, networking and so forth. Think of the utility companies. There are people in the field who lay the groundwork, lay the cables. That’s the facilities guys. Then we have people who sell the services, and enable and try to understand the business requirements, so the information service level, and then ultimately the ones who support it, whether it’s by finding the right people and enabling the right services to be enacted. Those are the three elements: We have facilities, services, and ultimately support, in which there is a cross-functional aspect from all across the IT organization to support all those three functions. That’s how the organization will ultimately look in the future.

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