How healthy is your virtualized environment? The answer can help optimize your storage infrastructure! To find out more and get those answers, I spoke with Don Mead, SVP Marketing & Partner Enablement at SVA Software.
VMblog: What is the key issue that organizations need to address in relation to infrastructure performance?
Don Mead: First and foremost, storage management needs to be prioritized by companies that care about unlocking maximum performance in their virtualized datacenters. If you think about the huge volume of data that today's organizations must contend with and the billions of users generating content, it's clear why storage considerations must be central to any virtualized environment. The data explosion creates ongoing demand for new services while reinforcing the urgency of optimizing storage capabilities. So companies need to evaluate and understand their storage infrastructure in order to optimize it for top performance.
VMblog: What pitfalls do companies need to avoid when managing their storage installations with better performance in mind?
Mead: A few things come to mind. Some administrators make the mistake of using too many tools. Using a multitude of different, disparate storage management tools makes the whole process more difficult to manage, since it can be harder to make out the big picture. Multiple tools result in overly narrow views of the data center, which leads to inefficiencies and higher costs. On a related note, when administrators lack accurate information about performance, capacity, and throughput needs of their IT environment, their storage installation might fail. Another pitfall to avoid is simply falling back on overly expensive hardware solutions.
VMblog: What's a better approach for administrators to understand their data storage utilization?
Mead: The best approach is always the most efficient one. When you're attempting to determine (with any sense of accuracy) what you're dealing with in relation to your total infrastructure, it's much more efficient from a performance standpoint to use a single reliable tool rather than a plethora of them. The goal is for companies to address their infrastructure challenges, which may be quite complex, while decreasing the expense of managing infrastructure performance. Relying on one solution for storage optimization can lead to better decision making and decrease resource usage-as long as it's the right tool.
VMblog: What are the elements of an ideal solution in that regard?
Mead: I would highlight four points. First, the ideal storage optimization solution should help improve service and keep costs down by facilitating efficient infrastructure control. Second, the solution should monitor the storage environment proactively, collecting data that can be analyzed on demand to help ensure that the storage environment can perform at its highest level of efficiency. Third, it would be a bonus if such a solution could also offer predictive alerting, thereby preventing outages and guaranteeing stability of the storage infrastructure. And finally, the solution should ideally align with data environment policies to ensure that software license agreements meet regulatory requirements.
VMblog: What's so important about ongoing monitoring of your storage environment?
Mead: Well, I mentioned earlier about the pitfall of overreliance on hardware solutions when it comes to storage. A smarter idea is moving your apps to the appropriate storage tier, which helps your system run more smoothly. But as a precursor to that decision, it's imperative that you are able to really see and understand your storage environment-to see the forest, trees, and leaves, if you will. That's why it's vital to have the right monitoring tool, a single tool that gives you a visual of how you're currently utilizing your data storage. Armed with that insight, you can make decisions that improve your virtualized data center performance down the road. Approached this way, your storage data becomes very powerful in that it provides real-world answers you need about how to optimize your IT environment going forward.
Here's another way to think about it: in many ways, keeping your virtualized environment healthy mirrors how you ideally should monitor your own health. If you've been experiencing unexplained chest pain, you wouldn't just ask your doctor to schedule open-heart surgery-your physician would need to run some diagnostic tests first, perhaps a chest x-ray or CT scan, to see if any abnormalities can be detected.
So it's the same idea to maintain the health of your storage infrastructure and help improve its performance. You need accurate information through monitoring in order to prevent system bottlenecks. When you have a solution that can help you hone in on problems early on, then you can plan for needed changes to make sure that the critical apps and workloads maintain peak performance.
VMblog: It sounds like you're saying that even though the large volume of information is a main challenge that organizations face today, information also is a key part of how to solve that challenge?
Mead: Yes, that's well said: the challenge does hold the key in this case. You need the ability to diagnose how healthy your virtualized environment is-you need that information. Think of how powerful it is to have a dashboard that reveals all critical IT data source details about infrastructure performance. With such insight, you can greatly improve your decision making across every type of environment. Without that, you'll have a really hard time figuring out what's needed to ensure optimal performance of your storage infrastructure and applications.
It's insufficient to just load up on hardware to try to manage your storage problems. That approach takes too many resources and just makes your storage infrastructure more complex. A smart solution is targeted at gathering the intelligence that can highlight the specific issues that need to be to addressed.
VMblog: What questions should administrators ask themselves about their virtualized infrastructure to determine if they're in need of a more efficient storage solution?
Mead: Every administrator should want to know whether they're truly getting their money's worth for the resources that they've invested into their storage solution. To that end, they might ask themselves questions like, "When was the last time I conducted a proper assessment of my storage infrastructure?" Or, "As application data changes, have I been tuning the storage environment in response?" They should also ask themselves questions about whether they've taken time to align capacity requirements with the best storage tier, and if they're noticing and addressing storage issues before they impact customers. In short, the key question to ask is whether they have reliable insight into the health and performance of their storage infrastructure.
VMblog: It sounds like a tall order. Are there any tools that are available to help companies with this type of infrastructure assessment and health check?
Mead: It's true that given the large scale and increasing complexity of these storage environments, it can be difficult and expensive to benchmark and achieve objectives related to performance and reliability. Fortunately, online tools can help administrators with the challenges posed by trying to thoroughly conduct such a health check on your own.
A strong assessment tool can give you a comprehensive view into the health of your IT infrastructure to make sure that your storage is properly optimized. There are a few things to look for in an assessment tool, including the ability to provide infrastructure optimization and proactive monitoring on an ongoing basis. You should also find a tool that offers cost optimization-helping you identify the highest performance at the lowest cost-as well as business insights to help you make better-informed decisions.
I would sum this all up by saying that when you have the actual data you need about your storage infrastructure, you can accurately diagnose-and then cure-your system.
Once again, a special thank you to Don Mead, SVP Marketing & Partner Enablement at SVA Software, for taking time out to speak with VMblog.com.