Storage virtualization can deliver benefits such as better utilization of existing storage, easier provisioning, improved performance of storage systems and applications, and lower-cost disaster recovery. But many different technologies fall under the "storage virtualization" umbrella. We'll use a fictional company to illustrate how small and midsize businesses might craft a storage virtualization strategy that meets different business needs and balances cost and performance trade-offs.
In particular, we'll look at using cloud gateways for faster file services and host-based replication for disaster recovery. We'll show how hybrid storage that combines flash storage and traditional spinning disks can deliver faster performance while controlling costs, but that doing so means sorting through several possible approaches. And last, we'll show how server-side caching done right can improve virtual desktop performance.
In our scenario, a new management group has taken over Acme Inc., a manufacturer of novelties and toys. Over the past several years, Acme has made limited investments in its IT infrastructure as a result of the economic downturn. The company's new CIO believes in the concept behind a software-defined data center, in which software performs functions such as networking and storage virtualization that have in the past been performed by dedicated hardware. He has asked his infrastructure group to virtualize as much new infrastructure as possible -- including the storage.
One of the first storage applications to be virtualized at Acme was file services. Before the upgrade, Acme had traditional disk-based network-attached storage systems in its Los Angeles design and distribution center, and in its three sales offices across the country. Acme has millions of CAD and graphics files in its archive of product designs and marketing materials, and the company's designers are often kept waiting as the NAS systems struggle to deliver these large files.
Acme also struggled with transporting files from location to location. Most of the time, employees sent files via email attachments to co-workers in other offices and to the company's Asian manufacturing partners. This clogged up the Exchange server and backup repositories with multiple copies of files. In addition, employees began bypassing corporate IT, and its security safeguards, by using consumer services such as Dropbox.
Cloud Gateways Speed File Servers
To address these problems, Acme chose a cloud storage service that uses cloud gateways like those from Nasuni and Panzura. These gateways are deployed on premises at Acme's offices, and connect to cloud storage services from providers such as Nirvanix and Amazon's S3. The gateways in each location use local solid-state drives and spinning disks to cache actively accessed data while presenting a single integrated file namespace to the users, regardless of their location. The LA design center will have a higher-end appliance with SSDs to provide the performance the designers need, while the sales offices and manufacturing partners can use less-expensive virtual appliances running under VMware's vSphere to keep costs reasonable.
Download the December 2012 InformationWeek SMB special issue on storage virtualization