Click here to close now.


SDN Journal Authors: Don MacVittie, Lori MacVittie, Liz McMillan, Dinko Eror, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Open Source Cloud, SDN Journal

Containers Expo Blog: Article

The Brave New World of Storage Virtualization

Can you put your virtual environment on autopilot?

I recently found myself intrigued by an article by Jon William Toigo on Tech Target titled - Software-defined infrastructure or how storage becomes software. In his article, Toigo poses the question: Could a software-defined infrastructure, with software-based controls and policies, be the answer to managing and allocating storage? While I am sure Jon would agree we're all tired of the buzz words around "software-defined-anything", the fact of the matter is that we all use it anyway for lack of a better description of what's occurring today.

Storage specifically is one of those areas I always say is like organizing your room: everyone has their own way of doing it.  You want your dresser to be a certain height.  You want you mattress pointing a certain direction and the light shining through your window on your desk at just the right time of day.  The truth is, storage is the under-pinning of virtualization that everyone wants to architect and manage the way they want to, and no one is going to tell them otherwise... UNTIL - wait for it - can manage this FOR people.

Where is the robot (I wish the Roomba folks would hurry up with this, but I digress;) that keeps your room exactly the way you want it to be?  The industry seems constantly to toss this idea around, but no one really seems to know where to find the solution.  The truth is that no matter what quirks people have with their storage, there is one goal everyone has in common: Ensuring applications have ability to consume the storage resources they need while preserving priority and business logic; as well as increasing efficiency without introducing risk.  This is the promise of every storage vendor on the planet trying to sell their latest auto-tiering, de-dupe, compression solution and all the wonderful bling to trick out their man cave.

The problem, however, is that virtualization obscures the lines with storage and it becomes intractably complex to manage the macro-level supply and demand of resources occurring across the stack. Traditional management tools - storage- and virtualization-related - are running into the limitations of their stats-based, linear approach to managing diverse environments.

An Illustration
As an illustration, let's use a real-life example. Let's assume we have a NetApp environment supporting VMWare.  The NetApp consist of 4 Aggregates spread across two filers.

  • Aggr 1 SATA and Aggr 2 SATA are on Controller A, and each Aggr comprises of 2 Volumes in VMWare
  • Aggr 3 SAS and Aggr 4 SAS are on Controller B, and each Aggr comprises of 2 Volumes in VMWare

Aggr1 sees a spike in IOPS driven by 3 virtual machines demanding IOPS on its 2 Volumes.  This results in Aggr1 utilizing 93% of its available IOPS capacity due to several high consumers, or "Bully" VMs (to use a traditional storage vendor's language).  To compound the issue, the high utilization on disk has now manifested itself up the stack and begins to impact the ability of other workloads to access the storage resources they require on Aggr1.


In this example, a traditional software management system for the storage platform will alert an administrator that the Aggr1 has exceeded a tolerable utilization on IOPS and that it is time for an administrator to act.  Similarly, the virtualization vendor (in this case VMWare), will generate alarms related to the virtualized components layered on top of the storage platform.


The administrator must then siphon through the charts and graphs in their storage vendor's tool, or their virtualization management system, with the end goal being some sort of resource allocation decision to intelligently allocate storage resources to the applications that need them while avoiding quality of service disruption at the expense of low-priority applications.

More likely the administrator needs to access both of these interfaces to try and accomplish this.  In this example, the resource decision might be to move the volume to separate aggregate on Controller A (when it reality this won't do much due to performance constraints underneath), move the volume itself to faster disk associated with a separate storage controller, or move the virtual machine to a volume hosted on Controller B.


Now the second part of this equation (and arguably more difficult to get right) is: How does the administrator ensure that the domino they decide to push over doesn't create another resource constraint within the environment?  Fundamentally, traditional storage vendor software offerings and virtualization management tools are incapable of understanding the impact and outcome of any prospective resolution because they simply do not analyze the interdependencies of this decision across both (virtualized) compute and storage components.  The best case for operations is a head start on the troubleshooting process after quality of service has already been impacted or is in the process of being degraded.

Are Things Even at Human Scale Anymore?
In order to truly accomplish a software-defined storage system, there needs to be a new type of management system capable of connecting these two obscure worlds for the purpose of intelligent decision making and resource allocation.

Toigo paints this gap perfectly when he states, "Our storage needs to be managed and allocated by intelligent humans, with software-based controls and policies serving as a more efficient extension of our ability to translate business needs into automation support."

Following this logic, this new system must go above and beyond looking at application issues in isolation to determine how to properly allocate the infrastructure's entire supply of finite storage resources to every virtualized workload and application - at scale.  Inevitably, this means looking across all application resource demands concurrently and then determining how to service each application's request for the best cost/benefit to the overall platform by allocating the supply of storage resource intelligently and in the most efficient way.   Ideally, this will be done prescriptively - before quality of service is degraded.

The second phase of this brave new world will involve incorporating business logic that allows the software-driven control plane to consider business constraints alongside of capacity and performance metrics in real time.   If tier 1 applications need to have priority for faster disk over low-priority applications, then the system should be set it and forget it.  If tier 3 applications must be confined to bronze or slow storage, then the constraint should carry over dynamically for any workload matching this criterion that is provisioned across the lifecycle of the environment.

If 20% overhead needs to be maintained across tier-1 storage resources, then software should be intelligent enough to control utilization below this level, instead of notifying administrators once they have crossed it and forcing them to bring the infrastructure back from the brink.

The reality is that everyone has their own idea how to best trick out their room - in this case, their precious storage. Administrators will never truly be comfortable with putting their storage architecture on auto-pilot until they can rest assured that their policies are maintained while assuring application performance.  Any system developed to tackle this brave new world, must be able to solve both of these goals simultaneously - a challenge that Toigo argues is beyond human capacity to do so at scale.

More Stories By Eric Bannon

A passion for econometric analysis and statistical modeling led Eric to… wait for it… software. Eric discovered that by leveraging IT algorithms, based on the principles of supply and demand, software can solve some of the biggest challenges in infrastructure and cloud management today.

Joining VMTurbo in 2011, Eric now serves as a Solution Architect, where he helps organizations unlock the full value of virtualization through the implementation of software-defined control. He holds a B.S. in Economics and Finance from Bentley University, and still likes to deconstruct James Heckman’s econometric models in his free time.

@CloudExpo Stories
For almost two decades, businesses have discovered great opportunities to engage with customers and even expand revenue through digital systems, including web and mobile applications. Yet, even now, the conversation between the business and the technologists that deliver these systems is strained, in large part due to misaligned objectives. In his session at DevOps Summit, James Urquhart, Senior Vice President of Performance Analytics at SOASTA, Inc., will discuss how measuring user outcomes –...
As-a-service models offer huge opportunities, but also complicate security. It may seem that the easiest way to migrate to a new architectural model is to let others, experts in their field, do the work. This has given rise to many as-a-service models throughout the industry and across the entire technology stack, from software to infrastructure. While this has unlocked huge opportunities to accelerate the deployment of new capabilities or increase economic efficiencies within an organization, i...
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, will explore the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends an...
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi's VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driv...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
As the world moves towards more DevOps and microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Raghavan "Rags" Srinivas, an Architect/Developer Evangeli...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
Overgrown applications have given way to modular applications, driven by the need to break larger problems into smaller problems. Similarly large monolithic development processes have been forced to be broken into smaller agile development cycles. Looking at trends in software development, microservices architectures meet the same demands. Additional benefits of microservices architectures are compartmentalization and a limited impact of service failure versus a complete software malfunction....
Developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT) comes with its own set of challenges. Security, privacy, and unified standards are a few key issues. In addition, each IoT product is comprised of at least three separate application components: the software embedded in the device, the backend big-data service, and the mobile application for the end user's controls. Each component is developed by a different team, using different technologies and practices, and deployed to a different stack/...
As a company adopts a DevOps approach to software development, what are key things that both the Dev and Ops side of the business must keep in mind to ensure effective continuous delivery? In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms, will share best practices and provide helpful tips for Ops teams to adopt an open line of communication with the development side of the house to ensure success between the two sides.
The last decade was about virtual machines, but the next one is about containers. Containers enable a service to run on any host at any time. Traditional tools are starting to show cracks because they were not designed for this level of application portability. Now is the time to look at new ways to deploy and manage applications at scale. In his session at @DevOpsSummit, Brian “Redbeard” Harrington, a principal architect at CoreOS, will examine how CoreOS helps teams run in production. Attende...
Redis is not only the fastest database, but it has become the most popular among the new wave of applications running in containers. Redis speeds up just about every data interaction between your users or operational systems. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Dave Nielsen, Developer Relations at Redis Labs, will share the functions and data structures used to solve everyday use cases that are driving Redis' popularity
SYS-CON Events announced today that Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, will keynote at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The IoT is upon us, but today’s databases, built on 30-year-old math, require multiple platforms to create a single solution. Data demands of the IoT require Big Data systems that can handle ingest, transactions and analytics concurrently adapting to varied situations as they occur, with speed at scale. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, chief strategy officer at Deep Information Sciences, will look differently at IoT data so enterprises can fully leverage their IoT potential. He’ll sha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DataClear Inc. will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The DataClear ‘BlackBox’ is the only solution that moves your PC, browsing and data out of the United States and away from prying (and spying) eyes. Its solution automatically builds you a clean, on-demand, virus free, new virtual cloud based PC outside of the United States, and wipes it clean...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Machkey International Company will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Machkey provides advanced connectivity solutions for just about everyone. Businesses or individuals, Machkey is dedicated to provide high-quality and cost-effective products to meet all your needs.
WebRTC converts the entire network into a ubiquitous communications cloud thereby connecting anytime, anywhere through any point. In his session at WebRTC Summit,, Mark Castleman, EIR at Bell Labs and Head of Future X Labs, will discuss how the transformational nature of communications is achieved through the democratizing force of WebRTC. WebRTC is doing for voice what HTML did for web content.
As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ability. Many are unable to effectively engage and inspire, creating forward momentum in the direction of desired change. Renowned for its approach to leadership and emphasis on their people, organizations increasingly look to our military for insight into these challenges.
The enterprise is being consumerized, and the consumer is being enterprised. Moore's Law does not matter anymore, the future belongs to business virtualization powered by invisible service architecture, powered by hyperscale and hyperconvergence, and facilitated by vertical streaming and horizontal scaling and consolidation. Both buyers and sellers want instant results, and from paperwork to paperless to mindless is the ultimate goal for any seamless transaction. The sweetest sweet spot in innov...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Key Information Systems, Inc. (KeyInfo), a leading cloud and infrastructure provider offering integrated solutions to enterprises, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Key Information Systems is a leading regional systems integrator with world-class compute, storage and networking solutions and professional services for the most advanced softwa...