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"You can compress specific VMs, or shift around your storage environment from within vSphere," said Divona. "You can create a data store and provision it in a couple of clicks. Everything else is done automatically."
He added that VAAI produces 10x less IO for common tasks like creating VMs, makes it possible to house10x more VMs per data store and enables 10x faster VM deployment.
"As you create more VMs, you experience problems via locking which limits the number of VMs you can create," said Divona. "VAAI handles this."
The way EMC has designed it, however, you can manage all of this via vSphere or Unisphere. Divona said the latter would be available by the end of the month, which would give a common experience of SAN and NAS for the mid-tier space.
"There are a lot more Unisphere features coming in the third quarter for even more integrated management," he said. "The overall direction is to make it so you are managing apps and have the storage automatically provisioned as opposed to having to build the storage and then trying to cobble it to the applications manually."
Head in the Clouds
Far from merely talking the talk, EMC has put its head firmly into the cloud in the form of its own data centers. Senior director of EMC IT, Michael Montoya, is the point man on EMC's very own personal journey to the private cloud. This initiative encompasses close to 50,000 internal users as well as 400,000 customers and partners, five physical data centers, 7PB of storage, and more than 400 applications and tools.
Currently, the company is about 55 percent virtualized. As it has done so, it has engaged in massive amounts of server consolidation; one project squeezed 1670 servers down to 310; a second brought another 1600 servers down to 40.
"We are experiencing 60 percent more storage growth but not getting 60 percent more funding," said Montoya. "Driving efficiencies via virtualization and the cloud is a vital action."
Tangible gains to date include maintaining a flat storage headcount despite the data explosion, as well as cutting down on the amount of storage required. Montoya estimates having avoided the acquisition of 1PB of storage over the last five years or so. Cash savings are estimated at around $105 million.
The goal is to be 100 percent virtualized on vSphere while delivering cloud-based services like self-service provisioning to users. In the meantime, the company has moved from two data storage tiers to five with Flash making up the first tier for highest performance.
500 users have been migrated to virtual desktops using VMware View 4.0, RSA Security and vBlock. By 2012, the whole company will be operating on virtual desktops. Clearly, this is a big step on the road towards the cloud, as is the recent deployment of Salesforce.com for CRM.
Such large scale overhauls, though, do not happen in isolation. Far from being the secret scheming of the few in IT, Montoya acknowledges the vital role of business-IT alignment. As part of that, IT has to have top-level support to be able to pull off such changes.
"We are in the board room more than ever," he said. "We have become involved in more strategic discussions as we have complete executive buy in."
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).
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