The Path from Virtualization to Cloud

Since the 1990s, the storage industry has meandered along a path that has been impacted by the advent of ancillary technologies, such as virtualization, flash, and the cloud. While meandering down this path, storage vendors of all shapes and colors have emerged with solutions intended to meet the critical business needs of the day, but over the years serious challenges have remained.

Back before VMware propelled virtualization into our daily lives, storage was a simpler place, although that term is somewhat relative. Before the advent of the SAN, we relied on storage directly attached to servers, which proved to be monumentally inefficient. The monolithic SAN emerged as the answer to all that was wrong in that server-centric storage world and enabled companies to centralize all of those islands of storage and manage it as a cohesive whole.

And then virtualization came along and ruined everything.

Key Milestones Along the Way

Of course, you already know the story of virtualization. It turned out to be a boon for IT, for the business, and for a thriving ecosystem of product vendors out there. It enabled IT to make far more efficient use of IT resources, a particularly important outcome as organizations across the globe seek to continually rein in operational expenses, which includes cutting back on technology spend. Beyond the expense benefits wrought by virtualization, however, there are some really important operational benefits that have emerged, including far improved business agility and the materialization of critical capabilities such as streamlined disaster recovery.

But all was not well…

For quite some time after the serious adoption of virtualization, the storage market became an active hindrance in terms of supporting the burgeoning technology. Thanks to the shifting I/O patterns induced by virtual hosts, some storage systems simply crumbled and could no longer keep up with performance requirements. This fact became a painful reality for far too many early adopters of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) systems leading to the failure of many nascent efforts in this space. Making matters worse was the fact that it was incredibly difficult to actually figure out where storage-induced performance challenges were taking place. But it wasn’t just VDI that felt the pernicious performance pain. While VDI’s sheer I/O intensity brought those problems immediately to the forefront, other I/O-intensive applications, such as databases and analytics systems and even enterprise applications such as large Exchange environments eventually began to be impacted.

Storage systems had become a stubborn challenge with regard to growing the environment as capacity and performance needs dictated. The lack of insight into storage performance challenges forced companies to undergo truly maddening rituals, which generally involved throwing hardware at the problem. In other words, rather than being able to solve for a specific performance issue, companies would simply add more disks to their existing environment with the sole desire to increase performance.

Flash Forward
This is the part where you’re saying, “Hey dummy! You know that we have this thing now called flash storage, right?” And you’re absolutely correct in that flash has helped us think differently about how to solve these tough performance challenges. Even better, as the cost of flash media continues to plummet, it’s become more accessible to more organizations. Even all-flash arrays are becoming more commonplace and can handily support lots of random I/O.

But flash doesn’t really solve the underlying cause of storage pain sprung by virtualization. It simply masks it and it simply another way to throw hardware at a problem rather than trying to actually fix it. Virtualized workloads demand a storage environment that is tailored to virtualization and that is VM-Aware and understands the unique needs of these systems.

Realizing that the world was moving inextricably toward 100% virtualization, new storage vendors emerged with innovative arsenals of tools to help businesses solve their most serious virtualization-centric storage performance challenges. This new class of storage was built with intelligence, which imbued it with the sentience that it is part of something beyond itself; it is aware of the fact that it is operating in a virtualized environment and is highly tuned to support the unique needs therein.

VM-Aware Storage (VAS) was born (cue musical fanfare here)!

The combination of VAS and flash was a truly potent combination, unleashing theretofore unseen levels of intelligence and performance. The results of this combination have created an entirely new storage market laser focused on virtualization and capable of helping datacenter administrators quickly understand and address even their most-vexing performance challenges.

And then, a funny thing happened on the way to the 100% virtualized data center. A shadow fell across the on-premises data center landscape.

The cloud had arrived, and it wasn’t going to take “No” for an answer.

 Step Back

Read On