Brace yourself for a virtual sea change in storage

Disruptors and new technologies will cause you rethink what you know about storage. Rick Vanover has the details about a storage system in beta that's already proving to be popular.


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There is an incredible shift going on with storage solutions. Storage has been moving very quickly in terms of innovation since server virtualization pushed storage to innovate. Some of the emerging technologies discussed on last week's VMware Communities Roundtable Podcast got me thinking that we are on the verge of a serious change of everything.

There are a number of new technologies out there, but there is one thing everyone needs to know: The way we are thinking about storage is changing. This is due to a variety of reasons. First of all, the non-rotational disk (SSD, flash, etc.) is causing disruption in the data center and the current storage offerings. Secondly, new architectures are being introduced that take that into account and in many ways are materially different than what we've done thus far.

IT pros usually feel passionate about storage and have specific interests in the topic. In many cases, storage constitutes one of the largest investments (if not the largest investment) in the data center. That said, it's very much our responsibility to give a serious look at all of the new storage technologies that are available. There has been quite a lot of noise made about one upcoming technology: VMware Virtual SAN. It will soon exit beta and is quite popular with many virtualization professionals in the industry.

VMware Virtual SAN is a storage system built into the hypervisor and optimized by hardware. This optimization spreads across the virtualized workload across the compute (servers) and the storage that they provide. In the VMware Communities Roundtable Podcast, there was much discussion on the pure definition of this architecture, as it's really different. There is tiering provided by solid state drives in each server node (Figure A).

Figure A



The VMware Virtual SAN storage feature runs underneath vSphere as it is part of ESXi. It's already in the DCUI for ESXi 5.5 while it is beta.

Companies that have not yet started with VMware Virtual SAN may wonder what to do first. Here's a great recommendation from VMware CTO Chris Wolf:

IMO if you want to get started with vSAN, dev/test is the perfect place. You maintain availability while lowering storage costs #VMwarePEX

From a live stream at VMware Partner Exchange in San Francisco, VMware Virtual SAN was discussed heavily and was met with curiosity by the VMware partner and user base.

VMware Virtual SAN is one of many converged or server SAN architectures out there. However, few are driven by the platform, which is a key difference for companies to consider. In the case of VMware Virtual SAN, it's a commitment to vSphere virtualization. In the case of other architectures, there are options to different hypervisors.

What's your take?

This may be a great class of storage for certain workloads. Do converged storage systems make more sense for certain workloads? Will enterprise storage go away? What do these technologies mean for your virtualized workloads? Does this change your storage strategy? Please share your concerns and opportunities for these types of storage systems below.