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VMware launches virtual SAN software

VMware's vSAN software harvests unused storage space on servers to park virtual disks

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VMware has introduced software designed to make it much easier for its customers to store large numbers of virtual machines (VMs) created with the company's software.

"It is about management simplification," said Alberto Farronato, VMware director of product marketing for storage and availability.

The software, VMware Virtual SAN (vSAN), is the company's first foray into storage virtualization. The company made its name offering server virtualization and is also ramping up offerings for desktop and network virtualization as well. The software provides storage space for the virtual disks (VDs) that hold the data needed to run VMs.

The vSAN software is built directly into the kernel of VMware vSphere, the company's virtualization OS. "If you know how to manage vSphere, you already know how to manage Virtual SAN," Farronato said. "We have interoperability with all the key features of the vSphere platform."

For users of vSphere, the software pools together internal storage, either hard drives or solid state drives (SSDs), on x86 servers, which then can be used to store VDs. VMware has designed the software so it offers resiliency against server crashes. It also is capable of high throughput.

The company boasts that the vSAN across a 32 node cluster is capable of 2 million input/output operations per second (IOPS) on a read-only workload, and 640,000 IOPS with a workload of mixed reads and writes.

Overall, adding vSAN to a server adds 10 percent or less overhead to the CPU's, according to the company. Storage can be aggregated in pools as large as 4.4 petabytes, spread out across 32 nodes.

Virtual storage software is nothing new. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Nutanix and EMC's own ScaleIO have offered ways of aggregating server storage into a single pool. Embedding this directly capability into vSphere could simplify storage concerns for the administrator, VMware asserted.

"What VMware is hoping is that since you are using their software to virtualize your server, and potentially your network infrastructure as well, you can now also virtualize your storage as well using their software. But vSAN is a pretty different model to most traditional storage virtualization software," said Simon Robinson, 451 Research vice president of storage, in an email statement. "If you're a VMware-centric IT shop and are looking for a relatively simple way to provide storage, then you will probably take look at vSAN. If you're a multi-hypervisor shop then you'll probably look elsewhere."

The software stores VDs according to policies set by the administrators, eliminating the work of setting up storage pools that correspond to different policies concerning retention, security, performance and other factors.

"Before, you had to manage storage separately, allocating resources through LUNs [logical unit numbers] or volumes. Now, we flipped the approach. When you create a VM, you specify your requirements from a storage standpoint, using policies, and everyone else is taken care of," Farronato said.

The software offers routine storage data services backup, cloning, replication and snapshots. It also works with other VMware products, including VMware Horizon View virtual desktop manager, VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager, VMware vCenter Operations Management Suite and VMware vCloud Automation Center.

VMware first announced the vSAN product at the VMworld conference, held last August. The company also fielded a series of beta versions for customers to test the product.

Early users of the technology found it beneficial in a number of ways, according to testimonies provided by VMware.

Adobe was able to use the software to avoid buying new storage hardware, by making better use of storage already on servers through VMware's built-in policy enforcement mechanisms. Services provider Itrica found the software handy in that it allowed the company to scale storage in relation to customer demand, and allowed it administrators to manage storage using the same interface they use to manage VMs.

VMware vSAN costs US$2,495 per processor. A version for desktop computers cost $50 per user.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com



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