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Server Virtualization Demands a New Storage Architecture

Server Virtualization Demands a New Storage Architecture

Modern data centers demand flexibility and elasticity from their storage networks.

A Contributed Article by Kevin Brown, CEO of Coraid

Server virtualization running on standardized, scale out hardware has brought tremendous IT benefits around elasticity, flexibility, and reduced server capital and operating expenses. The untold story is that those server benefits are built on top of expensive, proprietary storage hardware that severely reduce the virtualization ROI while placing a strict limit on true data center flexibility. Users are now waking up to that realization and demanding storage architectures designed for the modern data center.

On the compute side, innovations like live migration (e.g., vMotion) and automated load balancing have enabled dynamic infrastructures where the relationships between applications, servers, and storage change frequently. Legacy storage architectures like Fibre Channel and iSCSI were designed back in the mainframe era, are rooted in assumptions of a static infrastructure, and suffer from fundamental design issues when deployed in a dynamic, virtualized environment.

For example, individual connections must be manually configured between each server and each storage device.  However, virtual machine mobility means every server needs to see every storage device. This mismatch slows deployment and makes managing change very difficult.

In addition, these legacy storage architectures require additional software and operational processes like multipathing software and port bonding to provide high availability and increased performance. These architectures also depend on proprietary storage controllers driving shelves of backend storage, a scale up design that suffers from performance bottlenecks and big step changes in cost when the next controller purchase is required. In the end, all these shortcomings translate directly into higher upfront costs, operational complexity, and scale limitations.

There's a new model called Ethernet SAN that solves these limitations. Based on scale out hardware, distributed processing, and a connectionless architecture, Ethernet SAN addresses the architectural requirements of virtual data centers. 

Without manual connections to maintain, every single server automatically discovers and sees every storage device by default. It's an opt-out model where storage can be masked as needed, as opposed to the legacy opt-in model. Plus, the system automatically uses every network resource available, eliminating the complexity of multipathing and port bonding. Ethernet SANs also distribute processing across the network, enabling a building block approach to scalability with standard, off the shelf components. Adding new storage is as simple as adding another unit, allowing performance, capacity, and cost to scale with the business. The storage environment now looks and behaves just like the computing environment, with a flexible, scale out design based on commodity hardware.

Server virtualization has ushered in a new era of computing based on flexible, elastic computing architectures. With Ethernet SAN, storage can move into the modern age with a scale out architecture based on off-the-shelf components.

About the Author

Kevin Brown, Coraid Chief Executive Officer

Kevin is an accomplished entrepreneur and executive, with experience in the networking, storage, security, and virtualization sectors. Most recently, he served as President and CEO of Kidaro, a desktop virtualization software vendor, where he led the team to a leadership position in this emerging segment. Prior to joining Kidaro, Kevin served as a vice president on the original executive team of storage security vendor Decru, where he led worldwide marketing, business development, and product management. Following the acquisition of Decru by Network Appliance, Kevin stayed on as a vice president and helped the company achieve #1 market share and global adoption across the financial services, healthcare, telecommunications, manufacturing, and government sectors. As one of the leading experts on storage security, he served as an advisor to the U.S. Congress, Federal Trade Commission, and U.S. Department of Defense. Previously, Kevin was a key member of the founding team of Inktomi, a pioneering infrastructure software firm, where he served in a number of executive positions, including Vice President and General Manager of Inktomi's networking business. Kevin is as a Fellow at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, and earned his Bachelor's and MBA degrees at UC Berkeley, where he served as MBA class president.

About Coraid

Coraid Inc. is a technology manufacturing company that design and manufacture a full line of computer data storage products branded under our trade name EtherDrive storage. Coraid EtherDrive solutions deliver a flexible tier of high performance scale-out storage. Designed from the ground up for simplicity and virtualization, Coraid enables lower OPEX and 5-8x price performance advantage over legacy Fibre Channel systems. 

Published Monday, May 30, 2011 8:50 AM by David Marshall
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