One of the most expensive components of a server virtualization project is the storage which it is attached to. This is one of the reasons that VMworld seems more like a storage event than a server virtualization event. One of the key themes from vendors at this years event was reducing the storage costs in server virtualization projects.

George Crump, President, Storage Switzerland

September 28, 2009

3 Min Read

One of the most expensive components of a server virtualization project is the storage which it is attached to. This is one of the reasons that VMworld seems more like a storage event than a server virtualization event. One of the key themes from vendors at this years event was reducing the storage costs in server virtualization projects.Reducing storage costs and complexities is something we will cover over the next several entries. In this entry we will focus on the hard dollar savings which seemingly every vendor claims they do.

There may be no simpler way to calculate than the obviousness of how much did it cost upfront? One of the fastest ways to drive down costs is to make the storage system an application. As we describe in our article "Virtual Storage Infrastructure" storage as an application leverages the same principles that server virtualization itself does; abstract the hardware from the software. Once the storage software is abstracted from the storage hardware the storage manager can select a server platform to host the storage software and then choose the storage hardware of their choosing. It some cases the storage application can even run on a virtual appliance within the virtual infrastructure, consuming no additional hardware.

In this era of a strong need for shared storage and the availability of servers with plenty of processing power as well as plenty of drive slots, the ability to build very high capacity and at the same time very affordable storage servers has companies like DataCore, FalconStor, Nexenta, StarWind Software and StorMagic seeing rapid growth.

The other area to drive down server virtualization costs is in the protocol selection. Especially for a business that is looking at their first SAN, hosting VMware on iSCSI or NFS allows you to leverage the IP infrastructure that you already have and depending on the amount of storage I/O it may even reduce the need for specialized network adapters. As most protocol analysis have found, either of these protocols are "good enough" for many virtualized environments.

Even when there is a specific need for fibre channel storage in virtualized environments the cost and complexity of fibre channel deployments has come down significantly over the past few years. Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) looks to extend the savings even further by consolidating interface cards and cables.

The bottom line is that in a server virtualization infrastructure the benefits of shared storage are abundant. With the emphasis on reducing costs being applied by storage vendors, the investment to implement shared storage has been greatly reduced for businesses of all sizes.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

About the Author(s)

George Crump

President, Storage Switzerland

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for datacenters across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS, and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one the nation’s largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration, and product selection. George is responsible for the storage blog on InformationWeek's website and is a regular contributor to publications such as Byte and Switch, SearchStorage, eWeek, SearchServerVirtualizaiton, and SearchDataBackup.

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