Virtualization Technology News and Information
nFrame Selects DataCore's SANsymphony for Its Managed SAN
DataCore Software today announced that nFrame, the Indianapolis regions premier data center and infrastructure solutions provider, has selected SANsymphony to best support its clients virtualization needs due to the virtualization solutions hardware independence, high availability, thin provisioning capabilities and performance. Above all, it was imperative for nFrame to have a virtualized storage area network (SAN) in order to support its strategy for server virtualization. One of the biggest mistakes a company can make and the biggest single point of failure that companies fall into when implementing a server virtualization strategy is not building it out on top of a SAN that is highly available, said Eric Beasley, nFrame senior systems engineer. In fact, the weakest link of most server virtualization infrastructures is the SAN.

Beyond providing data center co-location, including offering clients redundant power, Internet connectivity and scalable physical infrastructure, nFrame offers a robust suite of managed services on top of its five-nines data center. The company offers high availability solutions including managed routers, firewall, and switch; load balancing; advanced monitoring; replication and backup solutions; and hardware break and fix as well as patching for software such as Microsoft and Red Hat. The company also is currently witnessing more and more clients who request VMware in their nFrame environments.

A Managed SAN Offering

It was in acknowledging the importance of a SAN installed in tandem with any server virtualization infrastructure that led nFrame to pursue offering a SAN solution to small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) so they could increase adoption of VMware within the firms environments. So many of our clients see the value in server virtualization but get stuck on the perceived cost of the SAN required in order to make virtualization happen, said Beasley. nFrames strategy was simple. They already offered a data center with a 99.999% uptime guarantee (with power build-out, air conditioning and Internet), therefore they knew they needed to offer a fault tolerant SAN solution one that had to be highly available and work across different networks to protect a variety of systems and platforms. Due to the cost and constant demand for storage, they required thin provisioning to make it affordable for nFrame and for its clients.

Three New Clients for SANsymphony

Having decided to launch a managed SAN and selecting SANsymphony to accomplish this, nFrame has already signed up three new clients and has put the first client in production as of early August 2007. In terms of this first managed SAN user, the production server has been connected, performance testing is underway and upon completion of the testing another four servers will be folded into the environment (SAN-attached). Two other VMware environments that are currently direct-attached storage will be added to the managed SAN within the next month.

Beasley was adamant about giving the SAN first priority before beginning the practice of managing server virtualization environments. I have just seen too many instances where companies have skimped on the SAN and that becomes one big single point of failure for a virtualization infrastructure, he said. He went on to explain that when looking to go the VMware route a lot of small and medium sized businesses would adopt a Fibre Channel (FC) SAN, but try to do it with low end storage. Unfortunately when companies go this way, Beasley said, they run into maintenance issues and worse because they have only deployed a single controller, without auto failover control. When one of the switches is taken down in a single Fiber fabric scenario, if it is the primary fabric switch, the SAN goes away and every virtual machine needs to be powered off before any maintenance can be performed.

I see a lot of value in what server virtualization has to offer, concludes Beasley. However, if you are short-sighted in trying to implement server virtualization without also looking to virtualize your SAN, you have only addressed half your potential problems. It is just a natural progression that server virtualization and SAN virtualization are implemented simultaneously to seamlessly virtualize the entire environment.

Other benefits that led nFrame to adopt SANsymphony for its Managed SAN include:

Business Continuity

Past experience told Beasley that a two-hour SAN maintenance window would actually require eight or more hours of actual downtime for the entire environment and that was just a single environment where the SAN was not shared. Downtime is not an option for our clients. With the DataCore SANsymphony solution, I can let clients know that I am performing SAN maintenance, but it does not mean that their applications need to be powered off and thereby become unavailable, Beasley said. SANsymphony also gives administrators at nFrame the ability to separate elements of the SAN and to put them into two completely separate parts of the facility. In addition, by protecting at the network-mirroring level, SANsymphony provides reliable business continuity as it protects against any outage or physical failure of the equipment. Moreover, the ability to synchronously replicate over multiple sites miles away or to other facilities further away (asynchronously) is also of huge benefit to nFrames customers.

Thin provisioning

Thin provisioning benefits are enormous, particularly when looking at the issue from the perspective of a service provider. It is with thin provisioning that nFrame can offer just-in-time SANs and buy additional disk resources as needed. Thin provisioning is also advantageous for the client as they pay for additional resources as theyre allocated.

Hardware independence

Being able to use SANsymphony on top of any commodity hardware that has the latest and greatest in terms of CPU makes administrators at nFrame much more confident in that the hardware is inter-changeable because the storage controller sitting on top of it is software-based. SANsymphony runs on the latest equipment, meaning that nFrame can easily change out different elements that sit below the virtualized SAN servers, disks, disk controllers, disk size, etc. With a traditional SAN, if users want to upgrade they must upgrade everything and also go to specialized training and education for the new environment each and every time they upgrade.

High Availability

High availability of client environments is essential. DataCore liberates nFrame from the cost of proprietary replication features, which are extremely expensive within particular SAN vendors. Mirroring of the network-managed volumes allows administrators to perform maintenance on the SAN without major downtime of either VMware or the physical environment.


nFrame also emphasizes the importance of being able to use iSCSI or Fibre Channel (or both) in order to build out its managed SAN. Equally important is the ability to have DataCore sit in front of different tiers of storage. The reason for this is that some nFrame clients will want a lot of disks, while others will want high-performance disks. With DataCore, nFrame can accommodate the needs of any and all users of the managed SAN.

Published Wednesday, September 26, 2007 5:56 AM by David Marshall
Filed under:
There are no comments for this post.
To post a comment, you must be a registered user. Registration is free and easy! Sign up now!
<September 2007>