Storage performance has long been the bane of the enterprise infrastructure. Fortunately, in the past couple of years, solid-state technologies have allowed new comers as well as established storage vendors to start shaping up clever, cost effective, and highly efficient storage solutions that unlock greater storage performance. It is our opinion that the most innovative of these solutions are the ones that require no real alteration in the storage infrastructure, nor a change in data management and protection practices.
This is entirely possible with server-side caching solutions today. Server-side caching solutions typically use either PCIe solid-state NAND Flash or SAS/SATA SSDs installed in the server alongside a hardware or software IO handler component that mirrors commonly utilized data blocks onto the local high speed solid-state storage. Then the IO handler redirects server requests for data blocks to those local copies that are served up with lower latency (microseconds instead of milliseconds) and greater bandwidth than the original backend storage. Since data is simply cached, instead of moved, the solution is transparent to the infrastructure. Data remains consolidated on the same enterprise infrastructure, and all of the original data management practices – such as snapshots and backup – still work. Moreover, server-side caches can actually offload IO from the backend storage system, and can allow a single storage system to effectively serve many more clients. Clearly there’s tremendous potential value in a solution that can be transparently inserted into the infrastructure and address storage performance problems.
The age of the software defined datacenter (SDDC) and converged infrastructure is upon us. The benefits of abstracting, pooling and running compute, storage and networking functions together on shared commodity hardware brings unprecedented agility and flexibility to the datacenter while driving actual costs down. The tectonic shift in the datacenter caused by software-defined storage and networking will prove to be as great as, and may prove to be greater than, the shift to virtualized servers during the last decade. While software-defined networking (SDN) is still in its infancy, software-defined storage (SDS) has been developing for quite some time.
LeftHand Networks (now HP StoreVirtual) released its first iSCSI VSA (virtual storage appliance) in 2007, which brought the advantages of software-based storage to small and midsize company environments. LeftHand Networks’ VSA was a virtual machine that hosted a software implementation of LeftHand’s well-regarded iSCSI hardware storage array. Since that time many other vendors have released VSAs, but none have captured the market share of HP’s StoreVirtual VSA. But the release of VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) in March of 2014 could change that as VSAN, with the backing of the virtualization giant, is poised to be a serious contender in the SDS marketplace. Taneja Group thought that it would be interesting to take a closer look at how a mature, well regarded and widely deployed SDS product such as HP StoreVirtual VSA compares to the newest entry in the SDS market: VMware’s VSAN.
The observations we have made for both products are based on hands-on lab testing, but we do not consider this a Technology Validation exercise because we were not able to conduct an apples-to-apples comparison between the offerings, primarily due to the limited hardware compatibility list (HCL) for VMware VSAN. However, the hands-on testing that we were able to conduct gave us a very good understanding of both products. Both products surprised and, more often than not, did not disappoint us. In an ideal world without budgetary constraints, both products may have a place in your datacenter, but they are not by any means interchangeable. We found that one of the products would be more useful for a variety of datacenter storage needs, including some tier 1 use cases, while the other is more suited today to supporting the needs some of tier 2 and tier 3 applications.
The era of the software-defined data center is upon us. The promise of a software-defined strategy is a virtualized data center created from compute, network and storage building blocks. A Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) moves the provisioning, management, and other advanced features into the software layer so that the entire system delivers improved agility and greater cost savings. This tectonic shift in the data center is as great as the shift to virtualized servers during the last decade and may prove to be greater in the long run.
This approach to IT infrastructure started over a decade ago when compute virtualization - through use of hypervisors - turned compute and server platforms into software objects. This same approach to virtualizing resources is now gaining acceptance in networking and storage architectures. When combined with overarching automation software, a business can now virtualize and manage an entire data center. The abstraction, pooling and running of compute, storage and networking functions, virtually, on shared hardware brings unprecedented agility and flexibility to the data center while driving costs down.
In this paper, Taneja Group takes an in-depth look at the capital expenditure (CapEx) savings that can be achieved by creating a state-of-the-art SDDC, based on currently available technology. We performed a comparative cost study of two different environments: one using the latest software solutions from VMware running on industry standard and white label hardware components; and the other running a more typical VMware virtualization environment, on mostly traditional, feature rich, hardware components, which we will describe as the Hardware-Dependent Data Center (HDDC). The CapEx saving we calculated were based on creating brand new (Greenfield) data centers for each scenario (an additional comparison for upgrading an existing data center is included at the end of this white paper).
Our analysis indicates that a dramatic cost savings, up to 49%, can be realized when using today’s SDDC capabilities combined with low cost white-label hardware, compared to a best in class HDDC. In addition, just by adopting VMware Virtual SAN and NSX in their current virtualized environment users can lower CapEx by 32%. By investing in SDDC technology, businesses can be assured their data center solution can be more easily upgraded and enhanced over the life of the hardware, providing considerable investment protection. Rapidly improving SDDC software capabilities, combined with declining hardware prices, promise to reduce total costs even further as complex embedded hardware features are moved into a more agile and flexible software environment.
Depending on customers’ needs and the choice of deployment model, an SDDC architecture offers a full spectrum of savings. VMware Virtual SAN is software-defined storage that pools inexpensive hard drives and common solid state drives installed in the virtualization hosts to lower capital expenses and simplify the overall storage architecture. VMware NSX aims to make these same advances for network virtualization by moving security and network functions to a software layer that can run on top of any physical network equipment. An SDDC approach is to “virtualize everything” along with data center automation that enables a private cloud with connectors to the public cloud if needed.
The massive trend to virtualize servers has brought great benefits to IT data centers everywhere, but other domains of IT infrastructure have been challenged to likewise evolve. In particular, enterprise storage has remained expensively tied to a traditional hardware infrastructure based on antiquated logical constructs that are not well aligned with virtual workloads – ultimately impairing both IT efficiency and organizational agility.
Software-Defined Storage provides a new approach to making better use of storage resources in the virtual environment. Some software-defined solutions are even enabling storage provisioning and management on an object, database or per-VM level instead of struggling with block storage LUN’s or file volumes. In particular, VM-centricity, especially when combined with an automatic policy-based approach to management, enables virtual admins to deal with storage in the same mindset and in the same flow as other virtual admin tasks.
In this paper, we will look at VMware’s Virtual SAN product and its impact on operations. Virtual SAN brings both virtualized storage infrastructure and VM-centric storage together into one solution that significantly reduces cost compared to a traditional SAN. While this kind of software-defined storage alters the acquisition cost of storage in several big ways (avoiding proprietary storage hardware, dedicated storage adapters and fabrics, et.al.) here at Taneja Group what we find more significant is the opportunity for solutions like VMware’s Virtual SAN to fundamentally alter the on-going operational (or OPEX) costs of storage.
In this report, we will look at how Software-Defined Storage stands to transform the long term OPEX for storage by examining VMware’s Virtual SAN product. We’ll do this by examining a representative handful of key operational tasks associated with enterprise storage and the virtual infrastructure in our validation lab. We’ll examine the key data points recorded from our comparative hands-on examination, estimating the overall time and effort required for common OPEX tasks on both VMware Virtual SAN and traditional enterprise storage.