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How to Manage Virtual Server Storage Management?

By CIOReview | Friday, March 31, 2017

One of the biggest challenges in virtual server environments is data storage. Enterprises often struggle with determining the storage technology to use for their virtual servers and the managers need to approach storage management in a virtual server in a totally different manner as compared to physical server environments. Following are some recommendations to work out the storage scenario.

Storage Resource Management Tools

One of the first storage resource management (SRM) software decisions is to select comprehensive tools or suites from the major vendors or a less extensive third-party product from a smaller vendor. Or enterprises can try a hosted SRM service offering. There are plenty of options from popular vendors such as HP Storage Essentials, IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center (TPC) and NetApp SANscreen storage suite. Major SRM tools have historically required software agents on servers to collect information. But the deployment and maintenance of agents can become a herculean task for an IT enterprise with multiple servers or servers in various locations. However, these tools do not require agents for installation as they are offered with a roadmap guide.

- Identifying Storage Workloads

The storage workloads for virtual desktops and virtual servers can be very different. IT professionals must know how much disk I/O a virtual machine will generate based on the applications and workloads it will host. Also, the user must ensure high disk I/O virtual machines should be equal among both physical hosts and data resources. Too many VMs with high disk I/O on a single host can overburden the host's storage controller. On the other hand, too many high disk I/O VMs accessing one storage system or LUN can also create performance bottlenecks. So, organizations should use performance monitoring tools to get a more in-depth look at the environment such as average and peak usage statistics.

- Shunning Intense Disk I/O

Certain VM activities can create very intense disk I/O resulting in a high resource contention degrading the speed of all the VMs. For virtual desktops this can be caused by time-specific events, like all users turning on their desktops at approximately the same time each morning—often referred to as a boot storm. While such a situation may be unavoidable, there are ways to deal with it such as by using automated storage tiering technologies that can leverage faster storage devices like solid-state drives (SSDs) during periods of high disk I/O.

- Using Space Efficiently

It is simple to utilize the disk space with virtual machines, but there are ways to control and limit the amount of space they take up on storage devices. Using linked clones can save a great deal of disk space especially for virtual desktops or lab-type server environments. Linked clones are similar to VM snapshots where a virtual machine's virtual disk file is made read-only and a smaller delta disk is created for any disk writes that may occur. Linked clones work by creating a master virtual disk image that's read by many VMs but all writes occur on each virtual machine's own delta disk.

- Using the Right Storage for Workloads

Different types of storage available with various hosts vary along with the diverse performance characteristics. With so many different storage options to choose from, it is important to fit the VM to the right type of storage. By placing less-critical virtual machines on the slower storage tiers and more critical VMs with higher I/O requirements on faster tiers, storage can be utilized to maximum efficiency.

In a nutshell, it is essential to understand the storage environment to better manage virtual server architecture. This way managing storage in the virtual environment becomes easy.