The sophisticated management and resilience capabilities that are so valuable for virtual hard disks are often reserved for high-end storage area network or network-attached storage subsystems.
Consequently, some of the most powerful and beneficial storage features are often overlooked or omitted when organizations can't justify the capital investment in storage arrays -- or the associated management effort.
How Hyper-V Storage Spaces Direct works
When dedicated storage area network or network-attached storage platforms aren't available or practical, organizations can leverage the capabilities of Hyper-V Storage Spaces Direct in Windows Server 2016.
Storage Spaces Direct introduces basic software-defined storage features to the Windows environment by identifying and pooling the available storage in local x86 servers. Storage can then be provisioned from that pool to provide caching and tiered storage for enhanced performance, as well as improved resilience through mirroring and erasure coding -- including parity techniques such as single parity RAID 5 or dual parity RAID 6.
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All of these features are effectively distributed across multiple servers within the organization's data center, and they resemble a converged infrastructure or hyper-converged infrastructure. For example, Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS) drives that span 20 servers might be pooled to create a SAS storage tier, while a two-way mirror -- a mirrored logical unit number -- would require a disk on two servers to achieve the necessary storage resilience.
Take advantage of Hyper-V Storage Spaces Direct
Hyper-V Storage Spaces Direct can utilize nonvolatile memory (NVMe) devices, solid-state drives (SSDs) and conventional hard disk drives (HDDs). Support for this broad mix of devices can enhance high-performance cache and storage implementations.
For example, NVMe devices often serve as storage write cache, while pooled SSD and HDD devices provide storage capacity. Systems without NVMe devices can employ select SSD devices for cache, while other SSD and HDD devices provide storage capacity.
Although Storage Spaces Direct isn't a feature of Hyper-V, any VM and VM data stores can benefit from the features and capabilities that Storage Spaces Direct makes available to the Windows Server 2016 environment.
However, Hyper-V Storage Spaces Direct does impose several restrictions on the server infrastructure. For example, each server in the pool should ideally possess the same number, type and capacity of HDD, SDD and NVMe storage devices.
Similarly, each server involved in the pool should ideally be identical, with similar CPU, memory and networking capabilities. Pooling similar server and storage resources helps to ensure balance across the pool -- ensuring that each server contributes equally to the pool and supports similar performance characteristics. While it's possible to pool dissimilar servers, there is the possibility that some storage capacity might be stranded, or cache performance benefits might be limited.
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