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An IDC Viewpoint
Removing Storage-Related
Barriers to Server and
Desktop Virtualization
July 2009
What makes server, desktop, and storage virtualization
attractive?
Virtualization is among the technologies that have become
increasingly attractive in the current economic climate, with
good reason. Organizations are implementing virtualization
solutions to obtain the following benefits:
■	 Focus on efficiency and cost reduction. Virtualization
technologies are implemented to increase the utilization of
servers and storage in order to run the IT infrastructure
more efficiently and at a lower cost. Organizations are
consolidating many dispersed systems on fewer, larger, and
centrally managed systems to obtain better control and
increased flexibility of the infrastructure.
■	 Simplify management and maintenance. European
organizations are using virtualization to reduce (planned)
downtime by relocating workloads before systems undergo
planned maintenance or upgrades. The speed of provisioning
is increased by migrating virtual machines and desktops
between physical platforms without impacting users. Peak
workloads can be balanced between several servers to avoid
performance bottlenecks.
■	 Improve availability and disaster recovery. Through
the use of virtualization, two of the main obstacles for
disaster recovery (DR) are overcome. European organizations
can have fewer systems at the DR site to run the virtual
machines and recovery can be done on dissimilar hardware,
which both significantly reduce the cost of the DR site.
What are the Challenges to Implementing
Virtualization?
Despite its many uncontested benefits, virtualization is a
transformational technology, which often presents organizations
with a number of challenges as they move from a physical
environment to a virtual one. These include:
■	 Shared storage is required. Before virtual machines and
virtual desktops can freely move between different hardware
platforms, they must have common access to shared storage.
They rely on shared storage to transfer the running state
of workloads between physical servers. This is generally
accomplished by replacing direct-attached disks with storage
area networks (SANs) that interconnect to multiple servers.
■	 Everything is connected. Whereas storage disruptions
and slowdowns in physical machines are usually isolated
to a single server or a single application, they are far more
crippling in the virtual world. Any bottlenecks or single points
of failure in a centralized SAN ripple across the entire set of
interconnected servers and potentially hundreds of virtual
machines and thousands of desktops.
■	 Unforeseen project costs. When organizations start to
launch server or desktop virtualization projects, they are often
surprised to find that the anticipated savings are consumed
by a significant upfront investment in the required shared
storage infrastructure. Much of the additional cost stems
from the higher availability and performance requirements
of centralized operations, particularly when they entail
replacing existing, direct-attach disks with new, high-end
storage devices and separately-priced SAN features.
When faced with these challenges, many organizations react by
either:
■	 Settling for less capable equipment that exposes them to
frequent downtime and bottlenecks,
■	 Postponing virtualization initiatives in the hope that future
storage infrastructure costs will drop substantially, or
■	 Reducing the scope of their initial rollout to test and
development scenarios that fit within their current budget.
Extending Virtualization to the SAN	
This IDC Viewpoint discusses an alternative to costly
investments in high-end storage systems. It proposes using
storage virtualization software to create scalable, robust SANs
using equipment already in place. This hardware-independent
approach complements server and desktop virtualization without
compromising availability, speed, or project schedules. Properly
implemented, value-added functions like replication and
snapshots can be used in a heterogeneous storage environment
across storage model and manufacturer boundaries. Just as
importantly, it can significantly lower capital and operational
expenditure for physical and virtual environments alike, making
such transitional initiatives viable.
Carla Arend
European Storage Software and Services, IDC EMEA
Key Considerations When Choosing a Storage
Virtualization Software Solution
■	 Repurpose existing hardware. Repurposing existing
hardware, rather than ripping out and replacing hardware,
saves a large portion of the virtualization budget. Look for
storage virtualization software that lets you construct a
SAN using servers and disks decommissioned during server
consolidation. The software should be capable of turning a
pair of existing servers into dedicated, highly available SAN
controllers.
■	 Aging hardware. As they age, drives and disk arrays
in the virtual pool can move down the tiers of storage to
prolong their useful life. Virtualization software should also
become more valuable, as the servers used to host it and the
underlying storage hardware are being refreshed.
■	 Diversity. Chances are that you have a mixture of older
and newer arrays, as well as different manufacturer brands
in your environment. You also have different availability and
performance needs for different parts of your environment.
Central management of such a heterogeneous environment
is key to ensuring the efficiency of the infrastructure. This can
be achieved by standardizing on one vendor, or by deploying
a software layer that masks the heterogeneous infrastructure
and presents it as a homogeneous storage pool, thus adding
value to the whole infrastructure.
■	 Performance. Some software designs merely redirect I/Os.
They slow down applications by adding latency. Sophisticated
storage virtualization solutions implement SAN-wide caching
techniques to eliminate I/O bottlenecks. They effectively
improve the performance realized from the assets in the
storage pool.
■	 Licensing. Depending on the growth pattern of your data
and the rate of change in your environment, you need to
determine the most appropriate licensing model. Capacity
licenses make it easy to plan for license cost, if you know
your capacity growth per year. Beware of licenses locked to a
particular hardware appliance or subsystem, which become
obsolete as the underlying platform ages.
IDC recommends:
■	 Choose storage virtualization software that is not tied to any
one hardware vendor so that you will have the most latitude
when selecting future devices.
■	 Ensure that the storage virtualization software you pick for
virtual systems also addresses your physical servers and
competing server virtualization platforms. Otherwise, you
may end up fragmenting the IT environment that you are
eager to consolidate.
IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, one of the world's top
information technology media, research and exposition companies.
Visit us on the Web at www.idc.com
To view a list of IDC offices worldwide, visit www.idc.com/offices
IDC is a registered trademark of International Data Group.
This IDC research document was published as part of an IDC continuous intelligence service, providing written
research, analyst interactions, telebriefings, and conferences. Visit www.idc.com to learn more about IDC subscription
and consulting services. To view a list of IDC offices worldwide, visit www.idc.com/offices. Please contact the IDC
Hotline at 800.343.4952, ext. 7988 (or +1.508.988.7988) or sales@idc.com for information on applying the price of
this document toward the purchase of an IDC service or for information on additional copies or Web rights.
Copyright 2009 IDC. Reproduction is forbidden unless authorized. All rights reserved.

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Removing Storage Related Barriers to Server and Desktop Virtualization

  • 1. An IDC Viewpoint Removing Storage-Related Barriers to Server and Desktop Virtualization July 2009 What makes server, desktop, and storage virtualization attractive? Virtualization is among the technologies that have become increasingly attractive in the current economic climate, with good reason. Organizations are implementing virtualization solutions to obtain the following benefits: ■ Focus on efficiency and cost reduction. Virtualization technologies are implemented to increase the utilization of servers and storage in order to run the IT infrastructure more efficiently and at a lower cost. Organizations are consolidating many dispersed systems on fewer, larger, and centrally managed systems to obtain better control and increased flexibility of the infrastructure. ■ Simplify management and maintenance. European organizations are using virtualization to reduce (planned) downtime by relocating workloads before systems undergo planned maintenance or upgrades. The speed of provisioning is increased by migrating virtual machines and desktops between physical platforms without impacting users. Peak workloads can be balanced between several servers to avoid performance bottlenecks. ■ Improve availability and disaster recovery. Through the use of virtualization, two of the main obstacles for disaster recovery (DR) are overcome. European organizations can have fewer systems at the DR site to run the virtual machines and recovery can be done on dissimilar hardware, which both significantly reduce the cost of the DR site. What are the Challenges to Implementing Virtualization? Despite its many uncontested benefits, virtualization is a transformational technology, which often presents organizations with a number of challenges as they move from a physical environment to a virtual one. These include: ■ Shared storage is required. Before virtual machines and virtual desktops can freely move between different hardware platforms, they must have common access to shared storage. They rely on shared storage to transfer the running state of workloads between physical servers. This is generally accomplished by replacing direct-attached disks with storage area networks (SANs) that interconnect to multiple servers. ■ Everything is connected. Whereas storage disruptions and slowdowns in physical machines are usually isolated to a single server or a single application, they are far more crippling in the virtual world. Any bottlenecks or single points of failure in a centralized SAN ripple across the entire set of interconnected servers and potentially hundreds of virtual machines and thousands of desktops. ■ Unforeseen project costs. When organizations start to launch server or desktop virtualization projects, they are often surprised to find that the anticipated savings are consumed by a significant upfront investment in the required shared storage infrastructure. Much of the additional cost stems from the higher availability and performance requirements of centralized operations, particularly when they entail replacing existing, direct-attach disks with new, high-end storage devices and separately-priced SAN features. When faced with these challenges, many organizations react by either: ■ Settling for less capable equipment that exposes them to frequent downtime and bottlenecks, ■ Postponing virtualization initiatives in the hope that future storage infrastructure costs will drop substantially, or ■ Reducing the scope of their initial rollout to test and development scenarios that fit within their current budget. Extending Virtualization to the SAN This IDC Viewpoint discusses an alternative to costly investments in high-end storage systems. It proposes using storage virtualization software to create scalable, robust SANs using equipment already in place. This hardware-independent approach complements server and desktop virtualization without compromising availability, speed, or project schedules. Properly implemented, value-added functions like replication and snapshots can be used in a heterogeneous storage environment across storage model and manufacturer boundaries. Just as importantly, it can significantly lower capital and operational expenditure for physical and virtual environments alike, making such transitional initiatives viable. Carla Arend European Storage Software and Services, IDC EMEA
  • 2. Key Considerations When Choosing a Storage Virtualization Software Solution ■ Repurpose existing hardware. Repurposing existing hardware, rather than ripping out and replacing hardware, saves a large portion of the virtualization budget. Look for storage virtualization software that lets you construct a SAN using servers and disks decommissioned during server consolidation. The software should be capable of turning a pair of existing servers into dedicated, highly available SAN controllers. ■ Aging hardware. As they age, drives and disk arrays in the virtual pool can move down the tiers of storage to prolong their useful life. Virtualization software should also become more valuable, as the servers used to host it and the underlying storage hardware are being refreshed. ■ Diversity. Chances are that you have a mixture of older and newer arrays, as well as different manufacturer brands in your environment. You also have different availability and performance needs for different parts of your environment. Central management of such a heterogeneous environment is key to ensuring the efficiency of the infrastructure. This can be achieved by standardizing on one vendor, or by deploying a software layer that masks the heterogeneous infrastructure and presents it as a homogeneous storage pool, thus adding value to the whole infrastructure. ■ Performance. Some software designs merely redirect I/Os. They slow down applications by adding latency. Sophisticated storage virtualization solutions implement SAN-wide caching techniques to eliminate I/O bottlenecks. They effectively improve the performance realized from the assets in the storage pool. ■ Licensing. Depending on the growth pattern of your data and the rate of change in your environment, you need to determine the most appropriate licensing model. Capacity licenses make it easy to plan for license cost, if you know your capacity growth per year. Beware of licenses locked to a particular hardware appliance or subsystem, which become obsolete as the underlying platform ages. IDC recommends: ■ Choose storage virtualization software that is not tied to any one hardware vendor so that you will have the most latitude when selecting future devices. ■ Ensure that the storage virtualization software you pick for virtual systems also addresses your physical servers and competing server virtualization platforms. Otherwise, you may end up fragmenting the IT environment that you are eager to consolidate. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, one of the world's top information technology media, research and exposition companies. Visit us on the Web at www.idc.com To view a list of IDC offices worldwide, visit www.idc.com/offices IDC is a registered trademark of International Data Group. This IDC research document was published as part of an IDC continuous intelligence service, providing written research, analyst interactions, telebriefings, and conferences. Visit www.idc.com to learn more about IDC subscription and consulting services. To view a list of IDC offices worldwide, visit www.idc.com/offices. Please contact the IDC Hotline at 800.343.4952, ext. 7988 (or +1.508.988.7988) or sales@idc.com for information on applying the price of this document toward the purchase of an IDC service or for information on additional copies or Web rights. Copyright 2009 IDC. Reproduction is forbidden unless authorized. All rights reserved.