As you consolidate servers and provision virtual machines (VMs), don’t forget to make the best use of your storage resources. With virtualization storage consolidation, you’ll save on costs and facilitate the advanced
Direct-attached storage works fine in physical data centers, but in a virtual infrastructure it’s better to implement central shared storage, such as network-attached storage (NAS) or storage area networks (SANs). These storage consolidation architectures ease virtualization storage management with simpler provisioning and improved performance. Plus, storage in a virtual infrastructure is easier to back up, move and protect once it’s consolidated.
Virtualization storage consolidation can also help admins load VMs to shared storage resources and perform live migrations. VMware even has a feature called Storage vMotion, which allows administrators to move data stores without downtime.
Learn how to get these benefits and more with the answers to these frequently asked questions about virtualization storage consolidation and shared storage.
Why should I consolidate storage in my virtual infrastructure?
Storage consolidation is a necessity in physical data centers that require complex storage management experience large increases in storage needs. Virtual infrastructures come with these requirements right off the bat, so virtualization storage consolidation is a must. Consolidating disparate storage servers into central shared storage means less manual work for administrators and fewer errors. Virtualization storage consolidation also makes it easier to locate available disk space, provision storage and monitor utilization from a single panel. At the same time, it can be difficult migrating disparate data to centralized storage, and storage consolidation can lead to network bottlenecks.
What are some benefits of virtualization storage consolidation?
Virtualization storage consolidation is all about saving space. By cutting down on storage space, you’ll reduce costs and streamline storage management. To reap these benefits, you can replace islands of direct-attached storage with shared storage such as NAS or SANs. When a VM or host failure occurs, shared storage makes it easier to move VMs without disrupting storage settings. And with snapshots or other backup techniques, you can provide high availability for VMs and their storage resources. Using storage consolidation in conjunction with data deduplication and tiered storage, you can greatly improve virtualization storage management.
What’s the difference between SAN and NAS?
Network-attached storage (NAS) is file-based storage that's usually less expensive. Some organizations find it easier to work with, but many choose it only for archival storage or backup. A storage area network (SAN) is block-based storage that's more expensive but provides better performance. SANs are great for virtual infrastructures because they can be easily consolidated. SAN storage consolidation allows administrators to perform less hands-on management and fewer data migrations, and allows them to reduce cables, rack space, floor space, power and cooling costs.
Will I save money with virtualization storage consolidation?
Not all storage consolidation methods reduce virtualization storage costs right away. It is expensive to connect to a Fibre Channel SAN, for instance, usually because of the cost of host bus adapter interfaces and switch ports. But when you virtualize, you can reduce the number of SAN endpoints by connecting only the hosts to the storage fabric. By consolidating storage connectivity to a limited number of hosts, you decrease the incremental switch and port costs for new servers. This method makes sense especially for infrastructures that were already SAN-attached in the physical world.
What are some challenges of implementing SAN shared storage?
VMs consume a lot of storage in a SAN environment, so it can be expensive at first. To save money in the long run, you need to make sure your shared storage is protected. There are a number of SAN-based data protection tools that can provide quick restore times, disk-based backup and a centralized view of the virtualization storage data.
What are some other considerations with shared storage?
Storage consolidation also requires you to look at how much storage your virtualized applications demand, plus what you expect from your virtualization storage performance. SAN technology in particular can accommodate hefty application requirements. But before you deploy shared storage such as SAN, make sure the business side is willing to pay for the licensing and data replication costs. You should also consider implementing a backup tool that works with your SAN. In the end, shared storage allows you to increase the size of your data stores, making it simpler to move VMs to any server in case of a failure and increasing high availability.
This was first published in October 2011