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Creating cohesive storage management

Robert L. Sheier | Oct. 9, 2012
Vendors of storage management tools are moving toward a 'single pane of glass' product that can automatically provision, resize, back up and recover storage across multiple public and private clouds, across systems from different vendors and for virtual machines running hypervisors from multiple vendors.

Among the vendors coming the closest to offering combined server/storage management with this approach is Tintri, whose "VM-aware" storage appliances are designed to replace traditional storage units such as volumes, LUNs and files with virtual disks. Tintri's VMstore file system monitors and controls I/O performance for each virtual disk, communicating with the VMware vCenter to detect which virtual machines are active and how they are using storage. It then automatically chooses the best combination of storage for each virtual machine, including fast but expensive solid-state drives and slower but less costly disks.

Buyer Beware

6 Tough Questions

When choosing a storage orchestration tool, Greg Schulz, senior adviser at the Server and StorageIO Group, recommends asking the following questions:

1. Does it enable the setup and scheduling of snapshots, replication, backup and other functions that ensure data availability?

2. How does the platform coordinate with other technologies, such as dynamic path management, that provide load management as application loads change?

3. How will the platform's performance and price be affected as your company adds more servers, storage and networks?

4. Will it be easy to install the vendor's system and integrate it into your company's environment?

5. How well does the vendor's platform integrate with your existing service catalog?

6. Can the platform recognize and comply with your policies on security, regulatory compliance and quality of service?

- Robert L. Scheier

Meanwhile, open-source vendor Red Hat claims that its Red Hat Storage Server, based on its GlusterFS file system, provides better scalability than rivals because it doesn't rely on a metadata server, more effectively distributes data and uses parallelism to maximize performance. Nutanix combines storage and server management, along with its own storage and performance management software, in a physical package that includes three to four x86 server nodes. Cisco takes a similar approach to combining computing, storage and networking with its FlexPod products.

Bridging Differences

One approach to cross-cloud storage management uses gateways that mask the differences among the APIs used by various cloud storage providers. TwinStrata's physical or virtual CloudArray (bundled with SANsymphony), for example, makes storage from any of 13 cloud providers appear as iSCSI devices to customers and applications. This allows connectivity and the use of a common management platform for functions such as disaster recovery and replication, says CEO Nicos Vekiarides.

Benefits plan administrator RxStrategies uses the TwinStrata gateway for cloud-based backup of its virtual machines and data. "On the outside, it looks like a SAN, which is old technology, but on the other side, it was actually part of the cloud, which enables us to transparently push our backup to Amazon or Rackspace," says senior developer Rick DeBay. In the future, he says he would like to be able to store data on more than one public cloud and easily move compute workloads to Amazon's EC2 public cloud and Amazon's S3 storage platform.


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