New APIs from VMware and partners promise tighter storage integration

VMware and partners will publish new code, called VMware Aware Storage APIs (VASA), that incorporates physical data storage monitoring into vCenter and CapacityIQ, sources said.

Early next year, VMware and storage partners are expected to release new APIs. Reportedly dubbed VMware Aware Storage APIs (VASA), this code could improve visibility into the physical storage infrastructure through vCenter and CapacityIQ, several industry sources said.

 VMware's CapacityIQ 1.5 examines vSphere's storage features, including thin provisioning, data store capacity and vSphere 4.1's Storage I/O control feature. The tool shows storage metrics to the graphical user interface (GUI), which previously required scripting to call up. But those metrics are based only on what vCenter sees from the virtualization side.

Currently, CapacityIQ doesn't connect the onboard server-side metrics on virtual storage devices to granular metrics at the physical storage layer, from the RAID group or the physical logical unit number level of a network-attached storage (NAS) or storage area network (SAN) device, such as EMC Corp.'s Clariion SANs or NetApp Inc.'s FAS series NAS filers. Storage vendors typically offer separate products known as storage resource management (SRM) tools to track such information.

Multiple industry sources said that VMware and storage partners are working on the VASA code that will allow VMware admins to view information about the physical storage array as well as the virtual data store.

"CapacityIQ is simply accessing the same information inside vCenter that we access," said an insider at one of VMware's ISV partners. "[VASA] will be a standardized API that all storage vendors can write to that will actually push data into the vCenter database. This will be a good step forward, since analytics products like ours can do additional analysis on the data."

"We include the vSphere host's perspective of LUNs and VMFS volumes," wrote Martin Klaus, group manager of product marketing for VMware, in an email. "Generally, these metrics are sufficient to track from a capacity management standpoint when the environment is virtualized."

Klaus declined comment as to whether users should consider tracking physical storage metrics through vCenter a realistic possibility. But sources said storage vendors are already previewing new VASA features for customers in roadmap sessions.

Infrastructure integration is the wave of the future
Users said the rumored integration would be welcome. "I can't get any detailed performance stats within vCenter that I can easily associate to a LUN on [my] 3PAR [disk array]," said Derek Seaman, lead systems engineer for government contractor MacAulay Brown Inc. "I'd prefer [that] functionality…be exposed through vCenter."

This integration would fit VMware's recent work to more tightly integrate with the physical data center infrastructure, and further development along these lines will be key to the success of VMware's ambitious cloud vision, analysts said.

In a June 2010 blog post, Wikibon.org analyst David Floyer described VMware's general integration roadmap. "The VMware team [in a data center] is highly dependent on storage capacity and performance, yet have no visibility into the underlying infrastructure…as virtualization becomes pervasive, ultimately progressing to [the] cloud operational model -- the 'layer of obscurity' needs to become transparent, and ultimately invisible."

Storage management could follow storage reporting
Some industry watchers speculate that the new APIs hold potential beyond deeper reporting, and it could lay the groundwork for storage infrastructure management and automation through vCenter.

Today, provisioning of physical storage is done separately through the disk array console. Then, vSphere carves up the LUNs presented from the physical array, but deeper integration could potentially change that process. Even more advanced possibilities include a storage equivalent to the Distributed Resource Scheduling (DRS) feature that VMware already offers at the server level or an enhanced ability to coordinate and automate Storage vMotion data migrations.

Wikibon's Floyer wrote: "The roadmap for integrating storage into the virtualized infrastructure journey will focus on greater flexibility to meet rapidly changing demands. Storage itself will essentially become invisible, whereby the days of carving out and manually managing LUNs and file systems to support virtualization will come to an end."

In the past, wrestling for control over storage management caused friction between VMware and its storage partners, but Evaluator Group analyst Randy Kerns said he's starting to see a shift in attitudes. "There are fewer specially trained storage administrators and more IT generalists handling storage," he said.

MacAulay Brown's Seaman added, "What I would like [my] 3PAR [disk array] to do is better integrate storage management functions, like LUN provisioning [or] tuning a LUN, within vCenter. If a storage DRS function could be tied to the 3PAR system reporter or real-time stats, then automatically move VMs to different LUNs based on I/O loads, [it] could [also] be useful."

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com.

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