Simplifying Storage in a Virtual Environment

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Server virtualization has been a big boon for TAC Inc., a Schneider Electric Company, improving performance management, reducing maintenance and lowering costs.

At the same time, however, virtualization added another layer of complexity to storage monitoring — until the company found Xiotech’s Virtual View.

An add-on for Xiotech’s ICON Manager, Virtual View simplifies storage monitoring, management and provisioning tasks by enabling administrators to manage storage in their VMware infrastructures from a single interface.

“Using Virtual View, I can see storage information from our three tiers of storage on one screen,” said Rey Balderas, senior systems administrator at Dallas-based TAC. The tool made storage monitoring at the company more convenient and improved storage planning.

TAC is a global organization with 5,000 employees, partners and branches in 80 countries. The company offers building environment services for indoor climate, security and energy use, delivered with advanced technology to end users and property owners.

Storage Headaches

In the U.S., Balderas manages 1,500 TAC users nationwide, running two server clusters with seven hosts and more than 50 virtual machines. The company is in the process of consolidating 14 U.S.-based sites to its data center located in Dallas.

TAC has been a user of Xiotech’s Magnitude 3D 3000s storage system for about 18 months. The company has 21 terabytes of usable storage and is using approximately 15 terabytes across its three tiers of storage.

Storage management across its virtual environment was tedious until Virtual View came along. “In VMware, I’d use the GUI to view individual servers, a sort of hunt and peck approach to management,” said Balderas.

Day-to-day business application requirements at TAC require constant changes to the company’s IT business systems, and company acquisitions and individual project management require additional changes to the allocation of servers and storage.

“New projects can require throwing up an additional three, four, five, servers at a time for the development, test and production environments,” he said.

The constant change requires a management solution that can quickly deploy systems, provide the management tools to address the resources, and understand and allocate resources.

Just a few months ago, Balderas managed storage monitoring in the virtual environment through a labor-intensive manual process. First, he’d need to understand how much storage was needed for an environment and what was available. Then, he’d need to know what tools to use to add up free space.

“We’d estimate growth for a server, add up storage on a disk, then we’d find we may or may not be using that space and need to allocate it,” he said.

Storage monitoring was tedious and done on an individual server basis.

The Answer

Xiotech changed all that.

Using the Virtual View add-on for ICON Manager, users get a global view of three storage layers (array, VMware ESX and virtual machine) from a single console and can then automate configuration across all layers.

Virtual View for VMware allows users to explore the VMware (NYSE: VMW) infrastructure and map the relationships among storage, servers and virtual machines, as well as provision, monitor and manage storage from a single interface, according to Xiotech.

“I can see both of our clusters in Virtual View in the same tree layout that I’d see it in the VM console,” said Balderas, eliminating manual compiling of storage. “I can also see all the hosts attached to a LUN,” he added.

Whereas it used to take the senior system administrator an hour to compile basic information on VM, it now takes 15 minutes.

According to Balderas, there weren’t any other options for storage monitoring management consolidation other than to write a custom program, which he said wasn’t feasible given the time and cost involved.

Today, the IT team can see the amount of disk storage in individual virtual machines and reallocate storage as needed. In a future release, Xiotech is expected to enhance Virtual View with additional capabilities such as allowing system administrators to create LUNs and assign to virtual hosts in a single interface.

“Today, Virtual View is view-only. I’m looking forward to the next release, which will eliminate any need to bounce back and forth between the two management consoles,” said Balderas.

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Lynn Haber
Lynn Haber
Lynn works as an editor-at-large meeting with new and established channel partners in the IT and telecommunications ecosphere. She works to understand what motivates partners, vendors, and distributors as they navigate growth in a dynamic industry. Lynn has worked as a business and technology writer for magazines, journals, and online media, and has authored hundreds of articles on technology, communications, business management, employment and careers, industry, and products.

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