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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 in Taipei, teaching Top Gun class. There was concern that another typhoon would hit the island of Taiwan later this week, but it looks like it is now headed for Hong Kong instead.
Elsewhere in the world, there are several events going on next week, so I thought I would bring them to your attention.
Over on the Tivoli Storage Blog, there is an exchange over the concept of a "Storage Hypervisor". This started with fellow IBMer Ron Riffe's blog post [Enabling Private IT for Storage Cloud -- Part I], with a promise to provide parts 2 and 3 in the next few weeks. Here's an excerpt:
Then another IBM blogger, Richard Vining, continued this meme with his post [VMware Data Protection with a Storage Hypervisor]. There are [different meanings for the word "protect"], but Richard's usage relates to protecting against unexpected loss. Here's an excerpt:
At this point, you might scratch your head and ask "Does this Storage Hypervisor exist, or is this just a theoretical exercise?" The answer of course is "Yes, it does exist!" Just like VMware offers vSphere and vCenter, IBM offers block-level disk virtualization through the SAN Volume Controller(SVC) and Storwize V7000 products, with a full management support from Tivoli Storage Productivity Center Standard Edition.
SVC has supported every release of VMware since the 2.5 version. IBM is the leading reseller of VMware, so it makes sense for IBM and VMware development to collaborate and make sure all the products run smoothly together. SVC presents volumes that can be formatted for VMFS file system to hold your VMDK files, accessible via FCP protocol. IBM and VMware have some key synergies:
But unlike tools that work only with VMware, IBM's storage hypervisor works with a variety of server virtualization technologies, including Microsoft Hyper-V, Xen, OracleVM, Linux KVM, PowerVM, z/VM and PR/SM. This is important, as a recent poll on the Hot Aisle blog indicates that [44 percent run 2 or more server hypervisors]!
For a set of best practices combining VMware with SVC, check out this IBM Redpaper titled [VMware Proof of Practice and Performance Guidelines on the SAN Volume Controller].
Join the conversation! The virtual dialogue on this topic will continue in a [live group chat] this Friday, September 23, 2011 from 12 noon to 1pm EDT. Join me and about 20 other top storage bloggers, key industry analysts and IBM Storage subject matter experts to discuss storage hypervisors and get questions answered about improving your private storage environment.
technorati tags: IBM, Ron Riffe, Richard Vining, Storage Hypervisor, Cloud, Heterogeneous, Virtualization, SVC, Tivoli Storage, Productivity Center, TPC, VMware, vSphere, vCenter, ESX, Unified Recovery, Data Protection, EMC, VPLEX