John Joseph, VP of Marketing of Dell EqualLogic Storage, and I had a short, but interesting dicussion about the place virtual storage should have in a well designed virtualized environment. If one is attempting to abstract functions away from the underlying physical platform, it simply makes sense to do the same for functions such as storage.
As John helped me understand what his organization was doing prior to its acquistion by Dell and a bit about how EqualLogic's products fit into Dell's overall plan for virtualization going forward. For those of you who don't follow virtual storage all that closely, Dell announced its plans to acquire EqualLogic for approximately $1.4 Billion in November 2007 and completed the acquistion in January 2008.
We also had a wonderful "remember when" discussion about Digital Equipment's storage group and some of the magic they were able to create in their labs. Some of the thinking that made that magic possible may be seen in the storage systems Dell EqualLogic offers today.
What does EqualLogic do?Here's how Dell's EqualLogic would describe its products.
Dell EqualLogic solutions deliver the benefits of consolidated networked storage in a self-managing, iSCSI storage area network that is affordable and easy to use, regardless of scale. By eliminating complex tasks and enabling fast and flexible storage provisioning, Dell EqualLogic solutions dramatically reduce the costs of storage acquisition and ongoing operations.
Patented page-based volume management enables automatic movement of data while it is in use. This technology provides the foundation for online expansion, automatic configuration and load balancing, performance optimization, and advanced software functionalities – all with continuous access to data. That means no downtime for increasing capacity, moving data between storage tiers, or load balancing storage, and most management tasks are handled by the array, not the administrator. As a result, EqualLogic PS Series makes enterprise-class shared-block storage practical for all servers and applications.
How does EqualLogic do the magic it does?EqualLogic's PS family of storage systems uses a patented "peer" storage architecture that allows components of the storage system and the arrays of storage devices to work in partnership to improve performance, share resources among storage systems, automatically distribute work among storage systems and make scaling the storage system as easy as pluggin in a new storage server.
I'm not going to try to condense our discussion into a few paragraphs. If you're interested, more information can be found here.
The Intelligent Person Test: Why does this matter?As organizations deploy various types of virtual processing software (for the uninitiated, this includes parallel processing/high performance computing software, workload management software, clustering software, virtual machine software and operating system virtualization/partitioning software) they soon find that it's desirable to disconnect the storage from the computers doing the processing and to use storage servers as well.
This means that if a processing node becomes unavailable, the storage it was using remains available. If data and applications need to be backed up, that task can be accomplished without halting processing - a snapshot of important files can be taken and the snapshot backed up. The services of multiple storage systems can be used to both increase overall application performance and provide for failure of a storage device.
In the end, the virtual environment being supported can offer higher levels of performance, scalability, reliability and agility.
Although Dell EqualLogic isn't the only game in town, what they're doing is interesting and is worth knowing about.