Unraveling Server Virtualization's Storage Problem

By CIOReview | Thursday, August 4, 2016
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Solving one issue paves way for another. This is a common scenario in the IT world.  Similarly, when an organization adopts server virtualization to cut down their expenses on technology, administration, hardware and other supplies they often end up facing additional problems; one of them is overloading data storage infrastructure.  According to Gartner, the global market is budding; with many firms leveraging server virtualization, which has boosted the usage rate up to 75 percent. As the utilization of the virtualization increases, the need of storage space is also proliferating. Many IT executives report that the money saved using the virtualization server is now spent on storage.

How do you solve the storage issue associated with server virtualization?

The traditional approach of adding another layer of server host to solve the issue may not be ideal. Server virtualization requires more flexible and shareable storage infrastructure that can meet the demands of virtualization.

The storage problem associated with server virtualization has triggered many enterprises to revamp their Disaster Recovery (DR) and data backup strategy because of the virtual machine sprawl.  To overcome the data storage problem caused by server virtualization organizations use three technologies. That is storage virtualization, thin provisioning and de-duplication. Before getting into the solution it is important to know how the issue arises.

How does the storage issue occur?

For instance, when an enterprise virtualizes more than 15 physical servers and executes all of them on one big server; the storage system associated with the server fails to handle high workload and results in latency that further leads to bad performance and unhappy customers. It is the data centers that utilize storage technologies according to the needs of physical servers in a virtual environment leading to a server sprawl in a virtual environment that burns 30 percent more disk space than physical.

Another scenario that paves way for storage issue is input/output bottleneck issue. When numerous virtual servers are wrapped and put into one huge server, it becomes difficult for the storage architecture to handle the random input/output stream and the scrambled pattern. Consequently it causes damage to the overall performance of the server.

What approach CIO’s need to take

There are many methods to solve the problem related to virtualization. Most of the CIO’s these days incline towards remedies like storage virtualization, thin provisioning and de-duplication to address the virtualization’s storage problem. By offering the convenience of flexibility like switching between vendors, adapting to latest technologies and meeting the requirements of virtual environment, these remedies alleviate the burden of storage problem caused by virtualization. Here is the list of techniques used by many organizations to solve the virtualization’s storage problem.

Storage virtualization: Storage virtualization is recommended by many organizations as the remedy to solve problem caused by server virtualizations.  This is because of the ability of storage virtualization technology to simplify the enterprise data management and dramatically reduce the IT cost and enhance enterprise agility.

Storage virtualization architectures is designed in such a way that software layer is positioned exactly between physical storage systems and the host running virtual servers. Storage virtualization gathers various physical storage devices from different sources and merge into a single storage device that later virtualizes file systems, discs and tape systems. With the help of storage virtualization architectures, storage devices are able to enhance enterprise agility and keep a track of virtual disks and other physical storages.

Thin provisioning: This technology assists in abstracting the unused storage capacity. It is a methodology that optimizes the efficiency by utilizing the available space in the storage area network accurately.  Thin provisioning manages the space by distributing specific disk space among multiple users, depending on the least amount of space required by the user at any given point of time.

Comparing with traditional approach known as fat provisioning, would allocate the space beyond current requirements, with the expectation of growing need and proliferation of complex data. In traditional approach large amount of money is spent on unused space where as thin provisioning over comes the problem by keeping operating cost low.

De-duplication: Data de-duplication is employed in virtualization server space to eliminate storage requirements. De-duplication removes these additional copies by preserving just one copy of the data and replicating the other copies with pointers that show the way back to the original copy.

Organizations often leverage de-duplication in disaster recovery and backup applications, but it can also be used to free up space for storage requirements as well.

Basically, de-duplication is carried out on file levels; that is, it removes photocopy of the same file also known as single instance storage (SIS). De-duplication can also happen on the block level, eliminating replicated blocks of data that is present in non-identical files.

Use a simple approach while purchasing storage

Even though all the above technologies assist in managing the growth of the data, enterprise must try a different approach while buying storage. For instance, if an organization purchases storage with the de-duplication feature, then there is no need of much storage space.

Below are few tips to follow while buying storage

• Storage architecture is designed to support specific storage solution. Unless it is mandatory, do not purchase unspecified storage. This helps in saving cost for the organization.
• Purchase a storage solution that offers adaptability, address all the issues and support several protocols.
• Assess the amount of workload and then purchase a suitable storage solution to avoid overload.
• De-duplication and thin provision will be of a great help in solving storage problem, get accustom to these technologies.
• Having complete knowledge and getting familiar with storage management software available for automation can assist in reducing the IT cost.

While proliferation of storage solutions addresses virtualization’s negative effect, enterprises should see to that they no more burn the banked money from virtualization. It’s essential that storage budget is spent wisely to purchase right storage solution. However, some investment in storage enhancement is inevitable and desirable.