Hyper-V Storage Buying Guide

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While VMware remains the Big Kahuna in the virtualization space, companies are increasingly turning to Microsoft Hyper-V as their virtualization platform of choice. A major advantage is the price.

“Organizations with Windows Server 2008 or more recent have Hyper-V built in with no extra charge – so it’s automatically less expensive, and there is no additional licensing required to use Hyper-V,” said Pat Simpson, a Technical Architect for CDW. “It’s also less expensive because there is not as much of a learning curve – the management tools are less complex to adopt.”

But to get the most out of Hyper-V requires buying storage that is optimized for the platform. Here are five storage vendors with products designed for use with Hyper-V.


Brocade has a range of SAN and Ethernet facbric switching and adaptor products designed to ensure compatibility and enable new networking functionality with Windows Server 2012. 

“By working closely with the Microsoft engineering team in the early stages of the new OS’s development, Brocade has ensured that Brocade Ethernet and Fibre Channel fabric solutions work seamlessly with Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V to deliver innovative new networking functionality for highly virtualized, cloud-based data centers,” said Jack Rondoni, Vice President, Data Center Storage and Solutions at Brocade.

Among the new features are:

· Virtual Fibre Channel, which allows direct access to Fibre Channel SAN storage by multiple-guest virtual machine (VM) partitions in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V environments. It enables distributed workload clustering and dynamic live migration of high-availability applications across VMs, without impacting workflows or requiring SAN reconfiguration.

· Dynamic Circuit Network (DCN), which enables Quality of Service (QoS) configuration from a Data Center Bridging (DCB) network and allows users to initiate ad-hoc dedicated allocation of network bandwidth.

· Network Virtualization Using Generic Routing Encapsulation (NVGRE), the Microsoft-recommended virtualization mechanism for Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Network Virtualization deployments.

Brocade offers Fibre Channel SAN switches, such as the DCX 8510 modular chassis switch with Gen 5 16Gbps Fibre Channel and up to 384 ports per chassis; 40 Gbps Ethernet switches such as the VDX 8770; and host bus adapters. Switch prices start at about $10,000.

For Hyper-V environments, virtual machines can now match the scalability and connectivity of physical servers and actually exceed the capabilities of a physical machine by leveraging the abstraction and mobility that virtualization provides,” said Rondoni.


“A virtualized environment is an entirely new architecture that is not compatible with the traditional storage architectures designed almost two decades before virtualization existed,” said Kelly Murphy, Co-Founder and CEO of Gridstore. “All traditional storage suffers from the I/O blender that severely impacts application performance in virtual environments.”

I/O blender is what occurs when different VMs, which each have their own optimized I/O for the application they are running, are sharing the same hardware, resulting in conflicts and bottlenecks. Gridstore’s storage is built from the ground up for virtualized environments, using a patented Server-side Virtual Controller Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender at the source and accelerate applications. Instead of a single controller sitting at the end of a network connection that is unable to optimize per VM, Gridstore virtualizes the controller and moves this directly into each hypervisor where it can isolate, optimize and prioritize I/O from each VM before it leaves the hypervisor.

Gridstore 3.0 has two 1U storage appliances. The GS-2000-4 has 4TB (2x2TB) of SATA storage and the GS-2100-12 has 12TB (4x3TB). Both have dual 1Gbps Ethernet connections and come with a 3 year warranty. The MSRP for the GS-2000-4 starts at $4,600; the GS-2100-12 at $11,500.


NetApp storage solutions deliver unique capabilities and features that offer tremendous value-add to all virtualized environments, regardless of hypervisor,” said Calvin Nieh, Product Marketing Manager, NetApp. “Our optimization for Hyper-V is delivered through tight integration with Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1. This allows our unique storage features and capabilities to be leveraged in Hyper-V environments and Microsoft private clouds built with Windows Server and System Center.”

NetApp’s unified storage architecture supports key NAS and SAN protocols including NFS, CIFS(SMB), FC, FCoE and iSCSI. Integration with Windows Server 2012 includes support for SMB 3.0, including the SMB 3.0 Witness Protocol, Continuously Available Shares, and VSS for SMB Shares (a.k.a. Remote VSS) and ODX (Offloaded Data Transfer). NetApp’s unified storage architecture allows access to Hyper-V data, e.g. VHDX files for Hyper-V VMs, to be switched from SAN to NAS through pointer manipulation, and without actually moving or copying the physical data, which would take ten to even one hundred times longer.

NetApp’s FAS Series controllers come in three sizes. Designed for smaller businesses, the 2200 series (e.g. FAS2240) is a 2U or 4U controller with drives in the face of the controller and no Fibre Channel ports. It supports up to 144 drives per controller pair. The 3200 Series (e.g. FAS3250) which is a 3U or 6U controller that uses attached drive shelves. Designed for the majority of the market, it can scale to 720 drives per controller pair.

For larger customers, the 6200 Series (e.g. FAS6270) is a 6U or 12U controller that uses attached drive shelves and scales to 1440 drives per controller pair. The number of available ports (10Gb/s, FC, FCoE, GbE, SAS) and the number of PCI slots increases with the larger controllers. NetApp also offers a special card called a FlexCache which contains 1TB of Flash and incorporates itself as a read Cache to the controller when inserted.


Because of the high I/O demand caused by running multiple VMs, increasing cache sizes can reduce the read/write bottlenecks. Imation’s Nexsan hybrid storage solutions use a caching technology called “FASTier” that combines DRAM and SSDs to create fault-tolerant read/write caches that can be customized at a storage pool level, enabling organizations to use FASTier on those Hyper-V virtual machines and applications that would gain the most from faster storage.

“Virtualized environments, including those built around Hyper-V, put increased demands for random I/O performance and scalability on the storage infrastructure,” said Bill Schilling, marketing director, Imation’s Nexsan solutions. “Using FASTier, Imation enables storage and/or virtualization administrators to create an intelligent, dynamic acceleration tier that sits on top of efficient storage arrays of spinning disks.”

In August, Nexxan released the NST6000 series of hybrid storage products. These 6U controllers use Xeon processors (24 cores) and up to 384GB DRAM system memory. The FASTier cache includes up to 64GB for a write cache and 9.2TB for a read cache. It also holds up to 48 SSD drives (19.2TB). Attached disk storage scales up to 756 TB using SAS drives or 5PB with SATA. It supports block (Fibre Channel, iSCSI) and File (NFS, DIFS, SMB and FTP) storage.

“Because only about 10-15 percent of data is ‘hot,’ or actively in use, at any given time, many companies are moving to hybrid storage systems that use of combination of solid-state technologies to accelerate the performance of the underlying spinning hard disk drives,” said Schilling. “By using a modest amount of DRAM and SSD, hybrid storage systems assign read/write caches to storage pools of spinning disk and dramatically increase the read and write operations to and from the disk.”


It is critical for the storage infrastructure of any virtualization environment to be designed from the start to match the benefits of server virtualization and meet changing business needs,” said Parissa Mohamadi, Solution Marketing Manager, HP Storage. “Incorrect storage choices can lead to performance bottlenecks, limiting the success of any virtualization project and preventing the virtualization of tier-one applications.”

HP has a large range of converged storage products designed for Hyper-V deployments. These improve workflow productivity and allow customers to double VM density while supporting the large, unpredictable workloads of virtualized environments. HP’s 3PAR StoreServ Storage is Tier 1 storage that was designed specifically to deliver optimal performance while supporting many, varying workloads simultaneously.

It has built in high-availability features including redundant controllers, persistent cache and ports, fast RAID 5, rapid recovery with fast RAID rebuilds, online servicing, and online updates. HP Peer Motion, available on both HP 3PAR StoreServ and StoreVirtual Storage arrays, complements Hyper-V Live Migration by offloading the migration of Hyper-V clusters to the array, therefore eliminating the burden placed on server and network resources.

The new HP 3PAR StoreServ 7450 includes an all-flash storage array with up to 96TB of raw storage. It has a 2U form factor, and comes in 2-node and 4-node configurations. The 4-node configuration consists of (8) built-in 8 Gb/sec FC ports, (8) 8Gb shortwave FC SFP, 10 GbE iSCSI (8) Ports and (4) PCIe adapter slots for host adapter cards. Prices start at $99,000.

The StoreVirtual Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) software functionality, available Sept. 30, 2013, includes automated sub-LUN (logical unit number) storage tiering and increased VMware and Microsoft integration to improve efficiency and performance.

The new HP MSA 2040 Storage system simplifies management and improves performance up to four times faster than similarly priced external disk storage solutions. The 2U shared storage array holds up to 288 TB in high-performance and high-speed SSD rives, enterprise-class SAS, and SAS Midline drives. This entry level SAN controller starts at $11,470.

X-IO (Formerly Xiotech)

Virtualization does a great job at cutting down on the hardware required, but that hardware still needs to be robust enough to manage peak loads.

“Hyper-V creates a multitenant environment for both enterprise applications and hosted desktops – both of which require enough performance headroom to handle SQL Server ETL operations through boot storms and logins,” said Blair Parkhill, VP of Marketing at X-IO. “Because much of the high performance needs for Hyper-V tend to be transient or of the 95 percentile, a storage solution designed for Hyper-V must also be able to adapt to these high performance peaks, again, without having to overprovision storage media to handle it.”

To meet this need, X-IO produces the Hyper ISE 7-Series of hybrid storage devices. These come with up to 27TB of raw disk capacity (30 900GB SAS drives) and 1.6TB of flash capacity for acceleration (10 200GB SSDs). The units have a maximum read bandwidth of 1.4 GB/sec, the same for write, and a 300,000 IOPS maximum. For less demanding operations, the ISE 200 series has up to 20GB of RAID 5 storage, with up to 13,500 IOPS.

“Storage for Hyper-V should be predictable, simple and focused on what matters in storage – performance, capacity, availability and reliability,” said Parkhill. “Hyper-V for Windows Server provides many data protection, replication and data management features, so why pay extra for storage that also has these features if they are not needed.”


Coraid’s Virtual DAS (VDAS) technology allows the SAN for Hyper-V to be abstracted as a local SCSI device, accommodating standard application-level operations. By using Ethernet as a backplane and abstracting the SAN with a server-side driver, this approach eliminates multiple layers of SAN complexity such as multi-pathing, port bonding, and worldwide naming to provide low latency, massively parallel access to every disk on the network.

“Coraid brings together direct-attached and shared storage to provide a solution for Hyper-V that is simple, fast, and scalable,” said Coraid CEO Kevin Brown. “This scale-out architecture leverages Layer 2 Ethernet and off-the-shelf hardware to deliver high performance with commodity economics.”

In August, the company released the EtherDrive SRX6000 Series of block storage appliances which are optimized for all flash and mixed flash and SATA or SAS drive use cases.  The SRX6000 Series includes two new EtherDrive SRX models, the 2U SRX6200 and the 4U SRX6300.  The SRX6300 uses dual 10Gb Ethernet connections and comes with 36 drive bay, with up to 144TB raw capacity when using 4TB HDDs. Enhancements include a faster processor, new bus architecture and the new CorOS 7.0 software, resulting in over 700,000 IOPS with solid-state drives. Prices start at $450/TB.

“Rather than deploy islands of specialized storage for Hyper-V environments,” said Brown, “the EtherDrive SRX6000 platform eliminates storage silos, allowing you to use the same building blocks for different performance workloads.”

Nimble Storage

Nimble Storage has two series of iSCSI SAN arrays (www.nimblestorage.com/products/specifications.php): the CS200 series for midsized IT organizations and the CS400 series for larger organizations or those with IO-intensive workloads. These hybrid storage devices scale up to 249TB of effective disk capacity (figuring 2X compression and three expansion shelves) and 2.4TB of Flash.

For virtualized environment, the company also has a reference architecture called SmartStack for Windows Server 2012 that makes it easier to deploy Microsoft Hyper-V in conjunction with Cisco UCS (Unified Computing System).

“The Nimble Storage SmartStack for Windows Server and Hyper-V with Cisco and Microsoft is a way for IT to make the move to a virtual datacenter while gaining flexibility and lowering costs” said Radhika Krishnan, Director of Marketing, Nimble Storage.


In January, Lenovo and EMC formed a joint venture, LenovoEMC, for EMC’s Iomega line of network attached storage (NAS). For Hyper-V deployments, the LenovoEMC NASes include support for iSCSI and Microsoft tools such as VSS. For higher performance, the products support link aggregation, aka NIC bonding/teaming, and the px12 products support 10Gb.

In April the company released an updated version of LifeLine, the OS used for LenovoEMC network storage products. Key features include snapshotting (scheduled or on demand), creation of cache pools of solid-state drives to increase read/write performance, and NFS 4.0 support. It also has a hybrid authentication mode that allows both Active Directory Domain users and groups and local users and groups to access the device simultaneously. LenovoEMC Integrated Virtualization eXtension (IVX) allows multiple virtual machines to run StorCenter device. These VMs can be running Linux or Windows and can also have their own private virtualized hardware, including network cards, drives, and graphics adapters.

The LenovoEMC px12-450r Network Storage Array is designed for production data stores, server virtualization, backup-to-disk target and video surveillance. It is available in diskless, partially populated or fully populated configurations from 0TB to 48TB in a single array.

The px12-450r includes many enterprise-class features, such as IVX, snapshot backup, the EMC Atmos Cloud Connector, EMC Avamar data deduplication as well as device-to-device data replication. It comes with quad-Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and an Intel quad-core Xeon processor plus link aggregation (port bonding), and the option of solid state drives. Prices start at $5999 for a diskless unit.


Unlike the other companies in this buying guide, Nexenta Systems offers a software-only product that can be used with any type of storage. Its core product, NexentaStor is a NAS/SAN software platform based on the high-integrity, open source ZFS file system and logical volume manager.

“A dedicated Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) can do block—file—object storage much better than the hypervisor itself because it packs several decades of storage stack development and many years of commercial deployment,” said Nexenta CEO Evan Powell.

While hypervisors virtualize local storage hardware, the VSAs virtualize the local and shared storage, hiding from the VM where the storage is located. Since the VSAs are VMs themselves, they can follow or be followed by other migrating VMs.

“This creates a design and implementation opportunity to make VM migration a self-contained transaction, independent of the location of physical storage hardware,” said Powell.

NexentaStor is certified for use on VMware and Citrix, as well as a Hyper-V. Since it is based on open source software, there is a free version, but customers will have to pay extra for proprietary enterprise features.


Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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