Is storage virtualization the missing link in vSphere environments?

Virsto thinks that storage virtualization is the missing link in many virtualized environments. The company fired another salvo into this market with the release of Virsto for vSphere 2.0.

Gregg Holzrichter, Virsto's VP Marketing, and Eric Burgener, VP Product Management, were kind enough to stop by and brief me on version 2.0 of the company's Virsto for vSphere. Due to an illness in my family and my need to travel home for a bit, scheduling the call was rather difficult. I appreciate their flexibility. Thanks guys.

Virsto recently launched version 2.0 of its well-received Virsto for vSphere and improved several things including: the product's high availability characteristics; the product's ability to order and manage storage traffic; the product's ability to monitor the environment and send out alerts; and improve interaction with XenDesktop workloads.

In short, it appears that Virsto has done a lot of work to make storage administration far easier for VMware vSphere users.

Snapshot analysis

Virsto has focused on virtualizing storage to do the following things:

  • Improve overall performance (increase the number of I/Os per second and throughput while also reducing storage latency)
  • Increase use of available storage capacity
  • Making the task of storage provisioning easy and visual
  • Allowing storage to be managed by virtual machine rather than focusing administrators to think in terms of storage logical unit numbers

By slipping their technology between virtual machine software's supported virtual servers and the storage, Virsto has been able perform a number of really useful tricks including optimizing file access, using de-duplication and compression techniques to reduce the flow of data between virtual servers and storage, and

Workloads hosted in virtualized environments access storage differently than do those same workloads when they are hosted directly on the physical system. Virsto, VMware and a few other suppliers of storage virtualization technology, are doing their best to address the problems caused by those differences.

When a physical host system is asked to host multiple virtual workloads, storage usage becomes more intense, less localized and often administration becomes far more complex that would be desired. Hosting many virtual servers on a single physical server tends to counter act storage optimization offered by storage servers and intelligent storage elements.

Virsto has been working to simplify the overall environment by inserting technology between the virtual machine software managers and the storage to allow:

  • Storage to be dynamically assigned rather than requiring static links to actual storage locations
  • Storage to dynamically grow and shrink based upon use rather than forcing administrators to pre-allocate storage based upon future requirements rather than actual use
  • Optimization of storage access to improve throughput and take advantage of the storage optimization offered by the storage devices themselves rather than overriding them
  • Storage units to  addressed by name rather than by the use of logical unit numbers (LUNs) making it more easily possible to manage storage in an agile vMotion/mobile VM environment

The end result is that storage can be as dynamic and agile as virtual servers are.

While I've quibbled about Virsto's use of the catch phrase "storage hypervisor" in the past, the technology the company offers is really interesting and could make IT administrators' lives much better. I'd recommend seeing a demonstration of this technology.