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If you store your VMware bits on external SAN or NAS-based disk storage systems, this post is for you. The subject of the post, VM Volumes, is a potential storage management game changer!
Fellow blogger Stephen Foskett mentioned VM Volumes in his [Introducing VMware vSphere Storage Features] presentation at IBM Edge 2012 conference. His session on VMware's storage features included VMware APIs for Array Integration (VAAI), VMware Array Storage Awareness (VASA), vCenter plug-ins, and a new concept he called "vVol", now more formally known as VM Volumes. This post provides a follow-up to this, describing the VM Volumes concepts, architecture, and value proposition.
"VM Volumes" is a future architecture that VMware is developing in collaboration with IBM and other major storage system vendors. So far, very little information about VM Volumes has been released. At VMworld 2012 Barcelona, VMware highlights VM Volumes for the first time and IBM demonstrates VM Volumes with the IBM XIV Storage System (more about this demo below). VM Volumes is worth your attention -- when it becomes generally available, everyone using storage arrays will have to reconsider their storage management practices in a VMware environment -- no exaggeration!
But enough drama. What is this all about?
(Note: for the sake of clarity, this post refers to block storage only. However, the VM Volumes feature applies to NAS systems as well. Special thanks to Yossi Siles and the XIV development team for their help on this post!)
The VM Volumes concept is simple: VM disks are mapped directly to special volumes on a storage array system, as opposed to storing VMDK files on a vSphere datastore.
The following images illustrate the differences between the two storage management paradigms.
You may still be asking yourself: bottom line, how will I benefit from VM Volumes?Well, take a VM snapshot for example. With VM Volumes, vSphere can simply offload the operation by invoking a hardware snapshot of the hardware volume. This has significant implications:
Here's the first takeaway: With VM Volumes, advanced storage services (which cost a lot when you buy a storage array), will become available at an individual VM level. In a cloud world, this means that applications can be provisioned easily with advanced storage services, such as snapshots and mirroring.Now, let's take a closer look at another relevant scenario where VM Volumes will make a lot of difference - provisioning an application with special mirroring requirements:
Here's the second takeaway: With VM Volumes, management is simplified, and end-to-end automation is much more applicable. The reason is that there are no datastores. Datastores physically group VMs that may otherwise be totally unrelated, and require close coordination between storage and VMware administrators.
Now, the above mainly focuses on the VMware or cloud administrator perspective. How does VM Volumes impact storage management?
VM's are the new hosts: Today, storage administrators have visibility of physical hosts in their management environment. In a non-virtualized environment, this visibility is very helpful. The storage administrator knows exactly which applications in a data center are storage-provisioned or affected by storage management operations because the applications are running on well-known hosts. However, in virtualized environments the association of an application to a physical host is temporary. To keep at least the same level of visibility as in physical environments, VMs should become part of the storage management environment, like hosts. Hosts are still interesting, for example to manage physical storage mapping, but without VM visibility, storage administrators will know less about their operation than they are used to, or need to. VM Volumes enables such visibility, because volumes are provided to individual VMs. The XIV VM Volumes demonstration at VMworld Barcelona, although experimental, shows a view of VM volumes, in XIV's management GUI.
Here's a screenshot:
That's not all!
Storage Profiles and Storage Containers: A Storage Profile is a vSphere specification of a set of storage services. A storage profile can include properties like thin or thick provisioning, mirroring definition, snapshot policy, minimum IOPS, etc.
Note that when a VM is created today, a datastore must be specified. With VM Volumes, a new management entity called Storage Container (also known as Capacity Pool) replaces the use of datastore as a management object. Each Storage Container exposes a subset of the available storage profiles, as appropriate. The storage container also has a capacity quota.Here are some more takeaways:
To summarize the VM Volumes value proposition:
For additional information about VM Volumes, check out [VMware Storage APIs for VM and Application Granular Data Management] blog post by Duncan Epping, a Principal Architect in the Technical Marketing group at VMware!
Until you can get your hands on a VM Volumes-capable environment, the VMware and IBM developer groups will be collaborating and working hard to realize this game-changing feature. The above information is definitely expected to trigger your questions or comments, and our development teams are eager to learn from them and respond. Enter your comments below, and I will try to answer them, and help shape the next post on this subject. There's much more to be told.
This week I am down under, starting my 7-city Storage Optimisation Breakfast roadshow on Tuesday in Sydney, Australia. I can't be at two places at once, and it seems whenever I am one place, lots of my coworkers are somewhere else at another conference or event. For those at [VMworld 2010] conference in San Francisco this week, IBM is a Platinum Sponsor and hosting a variety of presentations and activities. Here are some things to look forward to:
Sounds like a lot of fun!
Next week is [VMworld 2010], so I thought today would be a good day to write a blog post about reporting and managing virtual guest images.
As the original lead architect for IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, I am no stranger to reporting and management tools. Needless to say, if you have lots of virtual guest images, it makes sense to deploy reporting and management software. I had never heard of Veeam before, but I decided to check out Veeam Reporter 4.0, an enterprise-level reporting solution specifically designed for large Virtual Infrastructure (VI3) and vSphere virtual environments that allows you to automatically discover and collect information about your VMware virtual environment. Their 90-page User Guide offered these helpful "First Steps" on page 9 which I used as the master plan for my evaluation.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM, the leader in server virtualization worldwide, and the number #1 reseller of VMware. In this post, I review [Veeam Reporter 4.0] as my official entry for their blogging contest. IBM and Veeam do not have any business relationshiop that I know of, other than both being VMware business partners, so I am treating them here as an Independent Software Vendor (ISV). Veeam has not compensated me in any manner for this review, this review is not to be taken as an endorsement of Veeam or its products, and I was not provided any full or evaluator license keys. The review is based entirely on my experience using the "Free Edition" available to all for download. None of this blog post was pre-reviewed by anyone from Veeam. IBM, of course, also offers similar software, which I mention below for comparison purposes.)
At this point, you might be thinking, "Doesn't IBM offer something like this?" Of course it does! IBM is the leader in infrastructure reporting, monitoring and management software. Last October, [IBM unveiled IBM Systems Director VMcontrol] software. Not only does IBM Systems Director VMcontrol provide similar support for your VMware environment, it also manages Microsoft Hyper-V and Xen deployments, PowerVM on POWER-based serves, and even z/VM guest images on the System z mainframes. Combined with the rest of the IBM Systems Director, you can manage all of your physical and virtual servers with a single tool from a single pane of glass. How cool is that?
IBM VMcontrol comes in [three levels]:
To learn more, see the [VMcontrol Implementation Guide], take it for a test drive, with a [trial download], or talk to one of the many IBMers at [VMworld 2010] in San Francisco, August 30-September 2.
I would like to think Doug Hazelman, Senior Director of Product Strategy at Veeam, for organizing this awesome blogging contest. If you liked this blog post, click here to [vote for me] to get counted for this contest.