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vSphere's Array Integration – Start of Good Things?

As we review more details of VMware's vSphere 4.1 update; we find more nuggets that we can latch onto for which we can find use cases.

One feature that I am somewhat mixed on is the vStorage APIs for array integration (VAAI). I'm not discounting whether or not it is a good feature, but how much of the storage ecosystem will take advantage of this amazing feature. As of its release, only a handful of products support VAAI and they are from the usual suspects: NetApp, Hitachi Data Systems, EMC and 3Par. I hope that we see the larger storage ecosystem embrace VAAI support. While these are familiar players in enterprise storage, many VMware installations use other products that do not yet support VAAI.

What does VAAI do? Quite simply, it does some of the largest non-compute workloads in which an ESXi host interacts with the storage. According to this VAAI KB article on the VMware Web site, VAAI supports these three operations:

  • Atomic Test & Set (ATS), which is used during creation of files on the VMFS volume
  • Clone Blocks/Full Copy/XCOPY, which is used to copy data
  • Zero Blocks/Write Same, which is used to zero-out disk regions

With these operations, VAAI pushes the hardware do work that is best served on the storage processor. Hu Yoshida, VP and CTO at Hitachi Data Systems took particular interest to the VAAI feature in his recent blog post. There, he stated how VAAI is a transforming aspect of the datacenter to enable more performance to the virtualized infrastructure. Other storage vendors are touting their integration with VAAI as well, including some of the vendors whom have previewed VAAI last year as did NetApp at VMworld 2009.

While the current inventory of storage vendors whom support VAAI will surely grow, I hope to see a wide adoption across the VMware Hardware Compatibility list. Ideally, it would be a requirement for the storage partner to ensure a consistent experience across all products. While I think that is quite the wish-list item, administrators can turn the tables and make that a requirement for new storage products purchased.

What does VAAI do for you with vSphere 4.1? Share your comments here.

Posted by Rick Vanover on 07/20/2010 at 12:47 PM


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