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The next is setting up storage policies (similar to quality of service (QoS) levels). These policies lie at the heart of how the Virtual SAN operates, allowing VM and application storage requirements such as high availability of performance to be defined.
For example, you can pick the number of node failures to tolerate. If you pick 1, then Virtual SAN makes two copies of each piece of data; if you pick 2 then it makes 3 copies on three separate nodes, and so on.
Another option might affect performance - for example setting flash read cache reservation to 10%.
These two settings (and others) can be saved as a storage policy, which can then be applied to an application placed on the Virtual SAN.
From that point on Virtual SAN tries to ensure that the application is run according to that storage policy, remediating automatically if anything makes the application fall out of compliance with the policy (providing sufficient resources are available.)
For example, if one of the nodes in the Virtual SAN fails then the software automatically makes a new copy of the data and places it on another node so that there are still the required number of copies of the data.
This simplicity is significant in what it implies for storage professionals, according to Mark Peters, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "It means non-storage specialists can run storage, and don’t need to attend in-depth training to do so."
The key benefit to enterprises implementing Virtual SAN is cost savings, Peters believes. "Virtual SAN is a tightly integrated plug-and-play investment, where maintenance and operations are simplified because there are no issues with third-party API integrations," he says.
Further savings stem from easier infrastructure management, he adds. "There is no need for a dedicated IT administrator to deal with vendor-specific storage intricacies. An IT administrator can easily see the shared Virtual SAN storage resources, compute resources, and, most importantly, the defined storage policies, all from the familiar vSphere management interface.
This means increased efficiency and productivity for VM administrators because they will no longer need to switch between different interfaces from a multitude of vendor-specific plug-ins, or manage LUN relationships, Peters concludes.
The obvious question to ask about Virtual SAN is: how will it be used? VMware suggests that it could be used in test and development environments, as well as being suitable for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementations.
It's a use case that Gartner analyst Dave Russell also foresees. "There's no need for to rip and replace, much less a desire to rip and replace, the infrastructure you have already purchased and deployed. So it's looking for new workloads that might be appropriate - VDI is one example that might be a solid fit for a new deployment," he says.
ESG's Mark Peters agrees with this assessment, in the short term at least. "(Adoption) will start fairly narrow I would imagine - partly because VMware will constrain it and partly because users will be dipping their toes," he says. "Then - as is typical with many ‘new’ approaches in this business - users will discover that wider applicability is just fine."
And that means that the introduction of Virtual SAN will have long term ramifications for the storage industry, according to Peters. "While the functionality of the product still has room to grow, the simplicity and economy of Virtual SAN represents clear writing on the (software-defined data center) wall that traditional storage models are under threat," he concludes.
Virtual SAN quick facts:
· Virtual SAN available the week of the 10th of March
· Virtual SAN supported in vSphere 5.5 Update 1 and later
· Support for up to 32 hosts (nodes) in a Virtual SAN
· Support for up to 3200 VMs in a Virtual SAN
· Support for VMware Horizon / View
· Linear Scalability for capacity and performance
· 2 Million IOPS (read only)
· 4.4 PB maximum storage
· Free 60 day trial available from VMware, go to VMware Virtual SAN.
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