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Storage Decisions for Small Virtualization Footprints

As virtualization grows beyond the primary datacenters, opportunities arise to smaller IT footprints. Recently, I've started mentoring a few people in selecting a virtualization technology that is right for their needs. Some of these people read my open-ended invitation to provide advice on how to get started with virtualization.

I find the hypervisor selection quite easy. It quickly becomes a decision process of what you are familiar with and what requirements exist for the infrastructure. For many small organizations, this is a fairly straightforward process. Where it becomes sticky is when they're ready to select a storage product.

For a small environment consisting of seven or fewer virtual machines that have a nominal workload, a number of storage products can fit the bill. I've been working with, evaluating, researching and previewing storage solutions for these situations. Here is a roundup of a few storage products that I've been looking at:

Drobo: Last year, the DroboElite was released for the small and medium business as a more powerful option with additional connectivity for virtual environments. See this earlier post I wrote on the product. I like the built-in thin provisioning, adaptive RAID technology, sleek design elements and lack of concern for drive type to use. The DroboPro is similar.

SnapServer SAN S2000: Overland acquired the SnapServer series of products and has since offered a new series of products targeted to small storage requirements. The SnapServer SAN S2000 is an iSCSI storage device providing up to 120 TB. While that sounds very large (and it is), the architecture scales very high with today's inexpensive and large drives. The S2000 allows virtualization administrators to carve out RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50 and 60. The equipment uses standard Intel Nehalem processors, but it is delivered on purpose-built equipment. The one issue I have with this storage platform is that if we are putting up to 120 TB on a SAN, it may be time to roll in a second controller for redundancy. The S2000 doesn't currently offer that functionality but may at a later date.

HP MSA P2000 G3: The Generation 3 iteration of the MSA 2000 Generation 2 brings in features to a product line that desperately can benefit from additional management. The MSA P2000 has one distinguishing feature that is somewhat unique for the price point: an iSCSI and fibre channel dual-personality functionality. This is perfect for my growing distaste of fibre channel switch and interface port costs. The dual-personality allows you to provision fibre channel storage to the hosts that need it, while providing iSCSI connectivity to the devices that need the lesser tier of throughput.

This is just a sample of storage offerings that can be relevant for the small virtualization environment. I'm looking into more and will share first impressions here.

Are you selecting storage for your smaller virtualization environments? If so, how do you go about deciding which products to use?

Posted by Rick Vanover on 04/08/2010 at 12:47 PM


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