I recently read an excellent post by Ron Riffe, a fellow IBMer discussing practical recommendations for introducing cloud techniques into a private storage environment – the end goal being to save your company a substantial amount of money while becoming more responsive to the needs of the business. The first of the four steps discussed in the post was to introduce a storage hypervisor – virtualization of your storage infrastructure. It’s a good idea, especially if you have already virtualized some or all of your production server environment with something like VMware.
But there’s more to it than just the efficiency and mobility you get from virtualizing. The customers we talk to are finding new value that rises out of the synergy when both the server and storage environments are virtualized. One example is in the area of data protection. In this post, I’m going to explain the 1+1=3 effect for data protection that comes from combining VMware with a good storage hypervisor.
Let’s start with a quick walk down memory lane. Do you remember what your data protection environment looked like before virtualization? There was a server with an operating system and an application… and that thing had a backup agent on it to capture backup copies and send them someplace (most likely over an IP network) for safe keeping. It worked, but it took a lot of time to deploy and maintain all the agents, a lot of bandwidth to transmit the data, and a lot of disk or tapes to store it all. The topic of data protection has modernized quite a bit since then.
Today, you’re using a server hypervisor (VMware) to efficiently pack several virtual machines onto one physical server – and to make it so you can deploy, move and decommission those VMs pretty much at will. If you are still using the old techniques for data protection (deploying an agent on each individual VM, and then transferring all the backup data for those VMs through the one IP network pipe) on that physical server, you’re probably running into significant performance and application availability problems, and also missing out on some significant savings (if you listen carefully, you can hear your backup environment screaming ‘modernize me, MODERNIZE ME!”).
Fast forward to today. Modernization has come from three different sources – the server hypervisor, the storage hypervisor and the unified recovery manager. The end result is a data protection environment that captures all the data it needs in one coordinated snapshot action, efficiently stores those snapshots, and provides for recovery of just about any slice of data you could want. It’s quite the beautiful thing.
Data capture: VMware has provided a nice set of APIs that allow disk arrays and backup vendors to intelligently drive snapshots of a VMware datastore (for the techies, these are the vStorage API’s for Data Protection, or VADP). The problem is that integration from a disk array to these API’s is a tier-1 kind of service that is found on very few disk arrays today. That’s where a good storage hypervisor comes in. A storage hypervisor will include its own integration between VMware VADP and hardware-assist snapshot and it will plug the control GUI directly into the VMware vCenter management console. That means, regardless of what type of disk array capacity you have chosen to use for your VMware data, the storage hypervisor will be able to do a hardware-assisted snapshot of the VMware datastore (all your VMs at once – sweet!).
Efficient storage: Here’s a scenario we see…
- Administrators want to snapshot the VMware datastore 4 times a day. 4 days worth are maintained – 16 total snapshots “online”
- For longer term recovery, they promote one snapshot each day to a unified recovery manager. 1 month of these are maintained – 31 total snapshots “nearline”
The snapshots can add up, so efficiency is important. For the “online” snapshots, a good storage hypervisor stores only incremental changes, compresses the result and stores it as a thin provisioned volume on lower-tier disk capacity (the new 3TB SAS drives make a nice choice). Notice in this scenario, the administrator is also promoting one of the snapshots each day (say, the midnight snapshot) to an enterprise recovery manager. If you are using IBM’s Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recovery, then it will insert deduplication in the list of efficiency techniques being applied to the snapshot (incremental snapshots that are deduplicated, compressed, and stored on lower-tier disk… that’s about as efficient as it gets).
Flexible recovery: Whether the snapshot is online or nearline, the only reason you have it is so that you can recover when something (anything) goes wrong. A good hypervisor / unified recovery manager combination will give VMware administrators the ability to peer inside the snapshot and recover individual files, virtual volumes, or entire VMs. Using the scenario above, your recovery point would be no more than 6 hours old for the last 4 days, and your recovery time would be measured in minutes.
IBM offers one of the worlds best known unified recovery managers and the worlds most widely deployed storage hypervisor. With over 7000 storage hypervisor deployments, we’ve had a lot of opportunity to build some depth. Deep integration with VMware for modernizing your data protection environment is one example. If you are running VMware and haven’t yet modernized data protection, IBM can help. You can learn more at the following links.
Storage hypervisor platform: IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC)
Storage hypervisor management, storage service catalog, and self-service provisioning: Tivoli Storage Productivity Center Standard Edition (TPC SE)
Data protection integration: Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager and Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recovery
Join the conversation! The virtual dialogue on this topic will continue in a live group chat on September 23, 2011 from 12 noon to 1pm Eastern Time. Join some of the Top 20 storage bloggers, key industry analysts and IBM Storage subject matter experts to discuss storage hypervisors and get questions answered about improving your private storage environment.