Bright, Shiny Things for Storage Managers; The tools for building a strategic storage infrastructure are available to intelligent consumers.

Enterprise Systems – Jon Toigo
I tested SANsymphony-V recently and found several assertions by the vendor to be absolutely true. First, the allocation of storage to servers is simple: once storage is pooled, just drag the storage icon over to the relevant server icon in the GUI and you’re basically done. A logical, thinly-provisioned disk is provided to the server and its apps or guest machines. Moreover, DataCore keeps track of the paths that are being used for data traversing between the storage and the server/apps and auto load-balances traffic to avoid latency.

I can testify to the fact that storage I/O experiences a 3-5x performance bump when SANsymphony-V is managing it, primarily because all reads and writes are cached — so I/O works at memory speeds and not at the speed of spinning rust…

Bright, Shiny Things for Storage Managers

http://esj.com/Articles/2011/03/01/Bright-Shiny-Things-for-Storage-Managers.aspx?Page=4

When designing storage infrastructure architecture to achieve efficiency, performance, cost-containment, scalability, and ease of management, it is easy to become distracted by the latest announcements from brand name vendors — the “bright, shiny things” phenomenon. Like clockwork, every six months vendors insist on rolling out a new feature that they hope will differentiate their commodity wares from their competitors’. It can be a real task to separate the important technological developments from those that cater to the “storage is just an accessory for my iPod” attitudes of certain segments of the marketplace at any given time.

New Stand-out Products

Certain things need to be done close to the disk to guarantee performance, resiliency, and bang for the buck. Most other “storage functions” need to be done off array — delivered as shareable services across infrastructure broadly rather than being dedicated to a single stand of disk drives.

My friends over at Xiotech understand this, as do those at DataCore Software. Each company has recently announced new products with all the ruffles and flourishes of a “shiny new thing” — but which stand out in my view as truly strategic.

DataCore’s Virtual Storage Controller

If I am not buying thin provisioning on the rig, where do I get it? DataCore Software’s latest product, SANsymphony-V may provide an answer.

Last month, the Ft. Lauderdale storage virtualization software maker announced its new flagship product, which combines the best of its previous generation products into one easy-to-use “virtual storage controller” that works with Xiotech’s (as well as everyone else’s) storage hardware with hand-in-glove simplicity.

SANsymphony-V takes little knowledge of storage to deploy and configure. Wizards and extensive layman’s language help, on a graphical user interface similar to the latest Microsoft Office products, discover storage assets and combine them effortlessly into managed pools. The software provides a platform for doing most of the things with capacity management, performance management, and data protection management that need to be done to maintain a storage infrastructure at business-ready service levels.

Only using SANsymphony-V, functionality such as thin provisioning (which the company invented, by the way) isn’t isolated to a single hardware rig; it is a service extensible to all capacity in the infrastructure regardless of whose name is on the bezel of each rig. In effect, software value-add that need not be joined at the hip to proprietary array controllers is hosted instead on the storage virtualization layer created by SANsymphony-V, where it can be shared effectively and simply, and implemented readily for any application that needs it.

I tested SANsymphony-V recently and found several assertions by the vendor to be absolutely true. First, the allocation of storage to servers is simple: once storage is pooled, just drag the storage icon over to the relevant server icon in the GUI and you’re basically done. A logical, thinly-provisioned disk is provided to the server and its apps or guest machines. Moreover, DataCore keeps track of the paths that are being used for data traversing between the storage and the server/apps and auto load-balances traffic to avoid latency.

I can testify to the fact that storage I/O experiences a 3-5x performance bump when SANsymphony-V is managing it, primarily because all reads and writes are cached — so I/O works at memory speeds and not at the speed of spinning rust. The practical ramifications of this are several: for one, the overall speed of infrastructure is not determined by the slowest spindle. For another, older gear can be kept in service longer, even as newer and speedier disk is added to infrastructure, which helps to bend the storage cost curve. Best of all, brand doesn’t matter. You can build a better infrastructure with the combination of Xiotech ISE and DataCore Software than you can with most of the available brand-name rigs from the standpoint of resiliency, manageability, value-add service sharing, performance, and labor.

I/O caching and pooling also mean that functions such as data replication (even across different brand rigs), tiering, and other functions are a snap to implement. You want continuous data protection to safeguard a volume against a data corruption event? Easy — just tick the check box on that volume as presented by SANsymphony-V and every write made to the volume is logged, enabling you to fail back to an earlier time before the corruption event occurred. Want high availability? Easy — just mirror data synchronously between two or more volumes on different rigs in the same room or the same metro area network. Concerned about CNN-style disasters? Asynchronous replication and snapshotting — even between heterogeneous hardware — is readily provided.

Bottom line: the tools for building a strategic storage infrastructure are available to intelligent consumers. Fortunately for all of us, intelligence is becoming the new meme as cost-containment initiatives get into full swing.
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Enterprise Systems Video: DataCore Software Benchmarks VDI in the Real World (Interview with Ziya Aral)
http://esj.com/articles/2011/02/22/video-datacore-software-benchmarks.aspx

DataCore Software takes a very different approach to benchmarking VDI.

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