The first reaction it seems of most vendors is to "put a wizard on it" or to integrate as a tab within VMware's virtual center. While these steps certainly do help IT efficiency, they really just speed up the interaction with the GUI. Again this helps but the big challenge is knowing all the answers to the questions that the GUI is asking you and then monitoring the actions that the wizard takes after you click go.
What is needed is more automation. As I discussed recently with a CIO of a major financial trading firm, they feel it is imperative that they automate storage and their virtualized server environment to optimize efficiency and maintain the cost savings they have experienced with virtualization.
As we discuss in our recent article "Getting OpEx Savings from Your Virtual Infrastructure", automation of repetitive tasks is really one of the keys to achieving improved Admin to Server ratios.
IT Automation has been around for as long as there has been IT. It usually is a big task that involves multiple departments and a lot of decision makers. Automation of the server virtualization environment can deliver much of the hoped for efficiencies of IT Automation but because of the smaller project its adoption rate can be significantly higher.
Going beyond automation is where storage and server virtualization needs to end up. The two need to have an almost instinctive nature about them. Part of the key is to drive the storage element down to one thing to manage. One storage pool, not one hundred volumes. Companies like 3PAR, Nexenta and Isilon leverage the concept of a single common storage resource pool that can respond instantly to changes in virtual server workloads.
Essentially solutions like these are eliminating the storage element known as the volume. The end of volume management will be the subject of our next entry.
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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.