Welcome!

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Open Source Cloud, SDN Journal

Containers Expo Blog: Article

The Brave New World of Storage Virtualization

Can you put your virtual environment on autopilot?

I recently found myself intrigued by an article by Jon William Toigo on Tech Target titled - Software-defined infrastructure or how storage becomes software. In his article, Toigo poses the question: Could a software-defined infrastructure, with software-based controls and policies, be the answer to managing and allocating storage? While I am sure Jon would agree we're all tired of the buzz words around "software-defined-anything", the fact of the matter is that we all use it anyway for lack of a better description of what's occurring today.

Storage specifically is one of those areas I always say is like organizing your room: everyone has their own way of doing it.  You want your dresser to be a certain height.  You want you mattress pointing a certain direction and the light shining through your window on your desk at just the right time of day.  The truth is, storage is the under-pinning of virtualization that everyone wants to architect and manage the way they want to, and no one is going to tell them otherwise... UNTIL - wait for it - ...software can manage this FOR people.

Where is the robot (I wish the Roomba folks would hurry up with this, but I digress;) that keeps your room exactly the way you want it to be?  The industry seems constantly to toss this idea around, but no one really seems to know where to find the solution.  The truth is that no matter what quirks people have with their storage, there is one goal everyone has in common: Ensuring applications have ability to consume the storage resources they need while preserving priority and business logic; as well as increasing efficiency without introducing risk.  This is the promise of every storage vendor on the planet trying to sell their latest auto-tiering, de-dupe, compression solution and all the wonderful bling to trick out their man cave.

The problem, however, is that virtualization obscures the lines with storage and it becomes intractably complex to manage the macro-level supply and demand of resources occurring across the stack. Traditional management tools - storage- and virtualization-related - are running into the limitations of their stats-based, linear approach to managing diverse environments.

An Illustration
As an illustration, let's use a real-life example. Let's assume we have a NetApp environment supporting VMWare.  The NetApp consist of 4 Aggregates spread across two filers.

  • Aggr 1 SATA and Aggr 2 SATA are on Controller A, and each Aggr comprises of 2 Volumes in VMWare
  • Aggr 3 SAS and Aggr 4 SAS are on Controller B, and each Aggr comprises of 2 Volumes in VMWare

Aggr1 sees a spike in IOPS driven by 3 virtual machines demanding IOPS on its 2 Volumes.  This results in Aggr1 utilizing 93% of its available IOPS capacity due to several high consumers, or "Bully" VMs (to use a traditional storage vendor's language).  To compound the issue, the high utilization on disk has now manifested itself up the stack and begins to impact the ability of other workloads to access the storage resources they require on Aggr1.

BraveNew-a

In this example, a traditional software management system for the storage platform will alert an administrator that the Aggr1 has exceeded a tolerable utilization on IOPS and that it is time for an administrator to act.  Similarly, the virtualization vendor (in this case VMWare), will generate alarms related to the virtualized components layered on top of the storage platform.

BraveNew-b

The administrator must then siphon through the charts and graphs in their storage vendor's tool, or their virtualization management system, with the end goal being some sort of resource allocation decision to intelligently allocate storage resources to the applications that need them while avoiding quality of service disruption at the expense of low-priority applications.

More likely the administrator needs to access both of these interfaces to try and accomplish this.  In this example, the resource decision might be to move the volume to separate aggregate on Controller A (when it reality this won't do much due to performance constraints underneath), move the volume itself to faster disk associated with a separate storage controller, or move the virtual machine to a volume hosted on Controller B.

BraveNew-c

Now the second part of this equation (and arguably more difficult to get right) is: How does the administrator ensure that the domino they decide to push over doesn't create another resource constraint within the environment?  Fundamentally, traditional storage vendor software offerings and virtualization management tools are incapable of understanding the impact and outcome of any prospective resolution because they simply do not analyze the interdependencies of this decision across both (virtualized) compute and storage components.  The best case for operations is a head start on the troubleshooting process after quality of service has already been impacted or is in the process of being degraded.

Are Things Even at Human Scale Anymore?
In order to truly accomplish a software-defined storage system, there needs to be a new type of management system capable of connecting these two obscure worlds for the purpose of intelligent decision making and resource allocation.

Toigo paints this gap perfectly when he states, "Our storage needs to be managed and allocated by intelligent humans, with software-based controls and policies serving as a more efficient extension of our ability to translate business needs into automation support."

Following this logic, this new system must go above and beyond looking at application issues in isolation to determine how to properly allocate the infrastructure's entire supply of finite storage resources to every virtualized workload and application - at scale.  Inevitably, this means looking across all application resource demands concurrently and then determining how to service each application's request for the best cost/benefit to the overall platform by allocating the supply of storage resource intelligently and in the most efficient way.   Ideally, this will be done prescriptively - before quality of service is degraded.

The second phase of this brave new world will involve incorporating business logic that allows the software-driven control plane to consider business constraints alongside of capacity and performance metrics in real time.   If tier 1 applications need to have priority for faster disk over low-priority applications, then the system should be set it and forget it.  If tier 3 applications must be confined to bronze or slow storage, then the constraint should carry over dynamically for any workload matching this criterion that is provisioned across the lifecycle of the environment.

If 20% overhead needs to be maintained across tier-1 storage resources, then software should be intelligent enough to control utilization below this level, instead of notifying administrators once they have crossed it and forcing them to bring the infrastructure back from the brink.

The reality is that everyone has their own idea how to best trick out their room - in this case, their precious storage. Administrators will never truly be comfortable with putting their storage architecture on auto-pilot until they can rest assured that their policies are maintained while assuring application performance.  Any system developed to tackle this brave new world, must be able to solve both of these goals simultaneously - a challenge that Toigo argues is beyond human capacity to do so at scale.

More Stories By Eric Bannon

A passion for econometric analysis and statistical modeling led Eric to… wait for it… software. Eric discovered that by leveraging IT algorithms, based on the principles of supply and demand, software can solve some of the biggest challenges in infrastructure and cloud management today.

Joining VMTurbo in 2011, Eric now serves as a Solution Architect, where he helps organizations unlock the full value of virtualization through the implementation of software-defined control. He holds a B.S. in Economics and Finance from Bentley University, and still likes to deconstruct James Heckman’s econometric models in his free time.

Latest Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC Software has been named "Siver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. BMC is a global leader in innovative software solutions that help businesses transform into digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive advantage. BMC Digital Enterprise Management is a set of innovative IT solutions designed to make digital business fast, seamless, and optimized from mainframe to mo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EastBanc Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EastBanc Technologies has been working at the frontier of technology since 1999. Today, the firm provides full-lifecycle software development delivering flexible technology solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing systems – whether on premise or cloud. EastBanc Technologies partners with p...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Isomorphic Software will exhibit at SYS-CON's [email protected] at Cloud Expo New York, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Isomorphic Software provides the SmartClient HTML5/AJAX platform, the most advanced technology for building rich, high-productivity enterprise web applications for any device. SmartClient couples the industry’s broadest, deepest UI component set with a java server framework to deliver an end-...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
Many banks and financial institutions are experimenting with containers in development environments, but when will they move into production? Containers are seen as the key to achieving the ultimate in information technology flexibility and agility. Containers work on both public and private clouds, and make it easy to build and deploy applications. The challenge for regulated industries is the cost and complexity of container security compliance. VM security compliance is already challenging, ...
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tintri Inc., a leading producer of VM-aware storage (VAS) for virtualization and cloud environments, will exhibit at the 18th International CloudExpo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty ...
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.