“Virtualization” is an IT buzzword that marks an era, and that era is today. No matter where you look or where you go, the Cloud seems to be the answer to every processing question there is today, except for one lone, albeit very important, holdout: Tier-1 apps.
Bruised from earlier, failed attempts to virtualize mission critical enterprise apps by throwing expensive new hardware and storage at the problem – and still facing performance and downtime issues – enterprises continue to shy away from virtualizing their most essential, widely used applications.
Conventional wisdom among systems gurus today is that to avoid I/O bottlenecks and ensure reliable performance, Tier-1 apps require, without exception, their own dedicated (not to mention wasteful and costly) machines. Veteran OLTP consultants grimly describe the nightmare scenarios they say will inevitably occur should these instructions not be followed. Stick more than one instance of a heavily loaded Oracle, SQL Server or SAP image on a shared machine – and all hell breaks loose. So until recently, virtualization of Tier-1 apps has been pretty much out of the question.
This situation poses a dilemma for enterprises. If the cost effectiveness and convenience of virtualization don’t filter down to the applications you rely on and use the most, how cost effective and convenient can your system actually be?
Fortunately, there is now an answer to the previously unsolvable Tier-1 virtualization riddle, one that works reliably, effectively, and without the need for additional hardware: high-performance storage virtualization. The industry calls this convenient, shrink wrapped software stack a storage hypervisor.
A true hypervisor embodies a range of characteristics that improve performance to the extent that Tier-1 apps and the Cloud are no longer at odds in the enterprise. A storage hypervisor offers large scale, distributed caching. A storage hypervisor provides auto-sensing, auto-tuning and auto-tiering techniques capable of making priority decisions autonomically at the micro level. Equally important, a true storage hypervisor delivers fault-tolerant I/O re-direction across widely dispersed resources.
With storage hypervisor software, owners of business critical apps can now confidently virtualize them without fear of slow erratic service levels, efficiently managing the confluence of storage traffic that characterizes virtualized Tier-1 programs.
As an important added benefit, the need to throw expensive new hardware at the problem is eliminated. The storage hypervisor cost-effectively resolves the contention for shared disks and the I/O collisions that had previously disappointed users. It takes great advantage of new storage technology like SSDs and Flash memories, balancing those investments with more conventional and lower cost HDDs to strike the desired price/performance/capacity objectives.
It’s the perfect complement to classic transactional ERP and OLAP settings. Beyond SQL databases, it does wonders for virtualized Exchange and SharePoint as well.
This advanced new software probably won’t stop the veterans from trading IT war stories about the old days. However, storage virtualization through a storage hypervisor, with its superior performance at a lower cost, provides the current pros in charge of enterprise apps with a far more compelling and career-building narrative.
Chief Operating Officer of DataCore Software, Steve Houck, is a highly regarded veteran in virtualization, flash storage, cloud computing and data center technologies. DataCore develops storage virtualization software for high availability, fast performance and maximum utilization from storage in virtual and physical IT environments.