Survey Report

George Crump, Senior Analyst

The survey is still open if you would like to take it and we will update the results here as the information changes.

The first question in our survey was “When it comes to storage and server virtualization, which gives you the most problems?”. Here we were looking to identify what areas storage was being challenged by the virtual infrastructure.

The respondents ranked performance tuning and capacity management one and two with tier management (where to place VMs a distant third). Performance tuning is a real issue. Optimizing your storage environment for the virtual server environment requires tools and those tools do exist. Finding the one that meets your needs and doesn’t break the budget is something we will cover in more detail in upcoming articles.

Tier management is less of an issue right now because many virtualized infrastructures have only one tier. As these environments mature and as users find tools to help them we feel that VMware in particular provides excellent functionality in the form of Storage Vmotion to move virtual images to more performance and cost appropriate tiers.

Also tied for third was “troubleshooting” storage problems. Again an interesting response. Our assumption is that most administrators can get the storage infrastructure working but they are struggling with how to maximize that infrastructure.

The most surprising of the responses was the “other” category where 90% of the write in comments were related to backup problems. Remember this was a performance focused survey and yet respondents clearly had backup on their mind.

The next question was “How confident are you that you are not over-allocating storage to your Virtual Machines?”. Here we were looking for how users would rate their own efficiency when it comes to managing capacity in the virtual environment.

36% indicated that they were very confident that they were using storage efficiently. This is probably thanks to technologies like thin provisioning, deduplication and compression as well as possibly good template management. More concerning was that 64% had either no confidence in their ability to efficiently use storage or worse, had no idea what their current level of efficiency was.

There are two basic solutions to the above to problems. You can purchase a faster, more intelligent storage architecture and storage system. This is a valid way to go if it is time to refresh your storage infrastructure. If you can’t justify a refresh then tuning is the other option. Maximizing utilization, especially in a virtualized infrastructure, is going to require  a tool that can provide you views into that environment. We are long past the days of putting everything into a spreadsheet. Eventually both an infrastructure upgrade plus the ability to have fine-grained information about the virtual environment and its storage are likely in the future of every data center.

Finally, a maximized environment must have a tool that provides real-time tactical information so that if a peak situation occurs it can be handled without users noticing. When bandwidth has been maximized there is less headroom to handle sudden peaks in I/O demand. The right tools can alert you that a spike is coming and more importantly keep you out of trouble.