Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

Optimize Your Virtual Environment with Software-Defined Storage Approach

Enterprise organizations are continuing to look to the cloud to take advantage of the benefits available with virtual data center infrastructures, writes Hemant Gaidhani of SanDisk. And while this shift enables performance optimization, it isn't free of challenges.

Industry Perspectives

August 6, 2014

5 Min Read
Optimize Your Virtual Environment with Software-Defined Storage Approach

Hemant Gaidhani, Director Product Marketing and Management, Enterprise Storage Solutions, SanDisk.

As data centers shift workloads and critical applications to virtualized cloud environments, optimizing the performance and elasticity of cloud resources to meet growing business demands is imperative.

This is fueled by CIOs and technical stakeholders who want the data center to provide performance at scale, and CFOs looking for it to be cost efficient. They must also tackle the challenge of managing that data and various key performance indicators (KPIs) such as high performance, uptime, cost-effective scalability, reliability, and total cost of ownership (TCO).

Solid state drives (SSDs) have not only emerged as the solution to many of today’s prevalent challenges, but are also being combined with caching software to enable new performance and efficiency levels through a software-defined storage approach.

Maintaining high performance and uptime

When hundreds of virtual machines (VMs) across scores of virtual hosts try to access the same storage volumes simultaneously, there is an enormous I/O contention on data center resources. This is a very common phenomenon in multi-tenant cloud architectures and has been coined the I/O blender effect. The result is the number one performance bottleneck in a virtual environment.

One of the most common ways virtual administrators address this storage I/O performance challenge is by implementing SSDs so that requests from different VMs can be served with minimal latency. The performance of SSDs enables virtual administrators to keep up with the high I/O demands in virtualized environments. Not only do they help achieve greater VM density, but also improve application performance ensuring predictability of the end-user experience and meeting service level agreements (SLAs).

The microsecond-level latency capabilities of SSDs can overcome many scenarios that have historically met challenges in virtualized environments, such as boot storms, anti-virus scanning storms, or other high-latency events. The I/O Blender effect is just a single instance where SSDs are frequently used to solve latency bottlenecks.

Cost-effective scalability

Though virtualization helps improve utilization of compute resources, it puts enormous strain on traditional primary storage and in many cases can increase the complexity and cost.

This can be done more cost-effectively in cloud infrastructures by deploying flash optimization software and SSDs on the server. In doing so, IT managers can reduce the I/O load on primary storage resources and eliminate latency issues associated with traversing the network, negotiating through storage controllers, and dealing with the inherent latencies of traditional spinning disks.

Another critical component when considering cost-effective, scalable solutions is the ability to integrate with existing data center infrastructures without any disruptions. Adopting new performance improving hardware and software solutions should not mean upgrading entire architectures, or rendering current investments ineffective.

Reliability and total cost of ownership

As infrastructures scale, they often require additional space, consume vast amounts of power and require increased cooling capacities, dramatically impacting resource management and overall cost.

It is essential for storage solutions to scale for both capacity and performance, as well as address the pressing business concern of ownership costs. It is equally important that purchased solutions endure the demands placed on them by virtualized environments with minimal failure rate and downtime.

High-endurance enterprise SSDs deliver predictable, sustainable response times, even on data-intensive workloads. Since SSDs can work with hot swappable storage system designs, no expensive “forklift” upgrades to infrastructures are necessary.

By implementing SSDs, IT managers can deliver high performance levels with minimal disruption to the data center infrastructure while reducing power consumption and cooling costs. Furthermore, flash’s non-volatile memory protects data that would otherwise be lost-in-flight in the event of any power outage.

The bottom line for IT decision makers is that using SSDs means that their infrastructure investment will support demands and needs over time. SSDs paired with the right software afford high return on investment (ROI), without the hidden costs of component replacement due to failure or lack of endurance.

A new approach to the virtualized cloud: software-defined storage

Server virtualization has become a data center mainstay because of its ability to deliver increased computing efficiency. In fact, more than half of all servers are already virtualized, with that percentage continuing to climb.

With flash storage technology becoming more prevalent and cost-effective, a new approach to consider in virtualized environments is software-defined storage, which employs software as a means for controlling data center storage.

In the coming year, current flash-based storage systems are expected to transition to a software-defined approach, producing a new landscape that will change the industry permanently. A software-defined storage tier has the flexibility to scale up or scale out easily as application and business needs dictate.

Solutions like VMware’s Virtual SAN can help bring about this change, creating a radically simple storage tier for VMware vSphere environments, allowing customers to expand their Virtual SAN environment as computing needs grow.

Coupled with enterprise SSDs, this approach delivers extremely high performance, which make data transfers quick and efficient. Combining direct-attached flash and HDDs in a common storage pool shared by multiple servers results in a simple, high-performance, resilient shared storage solution in which flash storage acts as a cache that speeds read/write disk I/O traffic, to deliver maximum performance. This means more VMs can be supported by each physical server, saving power, reducing cooling costs, and conserving valuable data center space for future expansion.

Optimizing your operations

Enterprise organizations are continuing to look to the cloud to take advantage of the benefits available with virtual data center infrastructures.

When flash SSD hardware and software solutions are tangentially deployed in a virtualized cloud, organizations can achieve the high performance, scalability and TCO required for demanding workloads and applications.

This software-defined storage approach to virtualized cloud environments will enable businesses to transform their data centers to operate with greater agility, speed and value than ever before.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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