Pool Your Resources With File Virtualization

Here's a look at the drawbacks and benefits of this compelling technology, which makes disparate storage resources look like a single system.

Andrew Conry Murray, Director of Content & Community, Interop

May 13, 2008

3 Min Read

Deploying a file virtualization system is a significant undertaking, and customers should budget for a professional services engagement and a top-notch support contract in addition to the capital cost of the product.

"We had all kinds of EMC engineers in here," says SPi's James. His team was trained by EMC and participated in the implementation of the Rainfinity system. "We did some of the configurations under the careful eye of the EMC engineers," he says. SPi also added 55 TB of storage at the time of the Rainfinity implementation, which increased the complexity of the project.

The team worked carefully to ensure that data migrations didn't consume resources that would slow the product environment. That meant striking a balance among several resources, including network bandwidth and the demand on the Rainfinity boxes and NAS heads (that is, the part of the storage device that actually writes data to a disk). "The migrations run in the background and have a lower priority than production traffic," James says.

James and his team have run into snags here and there. "Decisions we made to get the system up and running might have to be changed down the road, so we've had to make configuration changes." That said, the team is familiar enough with the platform that phone calls and WebEx sessions with an EMC engineer are sufficient to get back on track.

More To Store

With storage volumes rising, the type of disk you use makes a financial difference 50% to 120%
Annual increase in file-based storage $72 vs. $14
Typical cost per gigabyte of Tier 1 vs. Tier 2 storage hardware $100 million
Ballpark estimate of file virtualization market revenue Data: IDC, Oracle, and Taneja Group

As companies consider an approach to file virtualization, here's a word to the wise: Vendors treat the in-band and out-of-band argument like Catholics and Protestants treat religion--one is truth, and the other is heresy. Yes, there are architectural differences and pluses and minuses to each, but it's too easy for conversations about the technology to degenerate into slagging contests, which may be entertaining but do little to help enterprises choose the best fit.

Rather than pick sides, companies are best served by understanding their environments and identifying two or three major pain points to address. For instance, if an environment is fairly balanced between Windows and Unix/Linux, a vendor whose namespace doesn't heavily rely on DFS makes sense. If storage consolidation in a Windows environment is a primary driver, a souped-up, purpose-built platform may be overkill.

The truth is that file virtualization can solve serious storage headaches. Forget about in-band vs. out-of-band. Focus on your needs, prepare to invest in training and professional services, and then start making calls.

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About the Author(s)

Andrew Conry Murray

Director of Content & Community, Interop

Drew is formerly editor of Network Computing and currently director of content and community for Interop.

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