Friday 30 September 2011

Storage Hypervisor Coverage in IT Business Edge: Is Storage Virtualization for Real? DataCore Says Yes

by Arthur Cole, IT Business Edge

Arthur Cole spoke with Augie Gonzalez, director of product marketing for DataCore.

The concept of storage virtualization has been drawing a lot of heat lately. Can you, in fact, virtualize a resource that can only accommodate a finite amount of data at any given time? Server virtualization proved so successful because most enterprises were sitting on a lot of untapped capability. A storage cell is either occupied or it's not. End of story. Yet many firms continue to tout storage virtualization, with DataCore even going so far as describe itself as a "storage hypervisor company." The company's Augie Gonzalez explains the meaning behind the phrase.

“Many of the bottlenecks encountered in virtual environments today can be directly attributed to the mechanical characteristics of spinning disk drives. We’ve found two effective ways to address the performance and resulting cost problems that they create.” - Augie Gonzalez

Cole: Storage has always been the slow-poke in the modern data environment, a problem that only seems to have accelerated now that everything is going virtual. What are some of the best ways to improve storage performance in virtual environments short of a wholesale rebuild?
Gonzalez: Many of the bottlenecks encountered in virtual environments today can be directly attributed to the mechanical characteristics of spinning disk drives. We’ve found two effective ways to address the performance and resulting cost problems that they create. Both are made possible by having our storage hypervisor intercept disk requests in an infrastructure-wide software layer slotted between the server hypervisors and the disk subsystems. From that unique vantage point we have visibility to all read-and-write requests generated by the cluster of virtual machines across the pool of disks. We can then adaptively cache the requests in very fast electronic memories to yield a many-fold performance boost.

The second turbo-charging benefit comes from sensing the most demanding disk block requests and automatically directing them to the fastest tier in the pool according to priorities established by the customer. The tiers range from high-speed Solid State Disk (SSD) flash cards all the way down to inexpensive internal Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) drives. The pool incorporates the diverse set of storage resources available to the data center, rather than what a manufacturer may have chosen to package in a disk array enclosure.

Cole: Some people have questioned your use of the term "storage hypervisor" to describe the new SANsymphony-V platform. What's your take?
Gonzalez: Controversy generates awareness, so we encourage the IT community to weigh in. Such healthy dialogues help expand the lexicon of technologists to encompass inventions while drawing parallels from familiar concepts.

Visualize a stack of rich, hardware-independent services spread across the IT environment. You’ll immediately spot three hypervisor layers. Most IT pros are well-versed with the server hypervisor floating above server-class machines. Those with a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) slant will clearly pick out the desktop hypervisor atop a collection of thin clients and thick PCs. The DataCore storage hypervisor soars above the diverse disk infrastructure to supplement device-level capabilities with extended provisioning, automated storage tiering, replication and performance acceleration services. It even offers a seamless ramp to the cloud for low price storage of less critical data.

Cole: Is it possible, then, for storage architectures to gain the same degree of fluidity and dynamism that virtualization brings to servers and networking?
Gonzalez: It’s not just possible; that’s exactly what SANsymphony-V customers experience day in and day out. As importantly, they realize the collective value of their storage resources in ways that they could not when used in isolation. The results can be more concretely measured in terms of higher availability, faster performance and maximum disk utilization.

The storage hypervisor also removes device-specific compatibility constraints, which had tied the buyer’s hands. Their newfound interchangeability grants customers the clout to negotiate the best value from among competing suppliers at every capacity expansion, hardware refresh and maintenance renewal event. Pretty compelling, don’t you think?

Thursday 29 September 2011

Storage Hypervisors Mean High Availability for Virtual Desktops

Back in March I wrote about VMware’s conviction that 2011 is the year when desktop virtualization gets real, and Jon Toigo’s assertion that the big roadblock for a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is the cost of the storage needed. Our partner Pano Logic found a related one: high availability. How they cleared this roadblock and boosted performance at the same time is a good illustration of how DataCore’s SANsymphony-V storage hypervisor works as a team player to solve virtualization problems.

Pano Logic offers a Zero Client Computing desktop virtualization infrastructure for VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenDesktop, and other hypervisors. Figure 1 shows the Pano Logic endpoint: just attach a keyboard, one or two monitors, and a mouse, connect to a back-end server running the Pano Logic software, and up comes your desktop.

Of course, that assumes you have a back-end infrastructure to connect to, and the expertise to configure and run it. Pano Logic found that for many customers, such as small businesses and even enterprise branch offices and departments, this wasn’t a given. So the company packaged up a complete virtual desktop infrastructure, from servers to endpoints, and offered it as Pano Express. All the user has to do is unpack some boxes, follow the color-coded instructions, and push a button. It’s easier than most home theater setups.

Pano Express, which supports up to thirty users, is a hit, especially in the SMB and educational markets. But the company found that enterprise branch office and departmental customers more often demanded 100% 24X7 operation as well. Downtime would have serious financial consequences.

Pano Logic knew that storage virtualization was the key to high availability. Storage is the heart of a VDI. In fact, Toigo describes a virtual desktop as the ability to “call a desktop image up on demand, do some work, and then park it back on disk.” If your storage is highly-available, your virtual desktops are as well. That’s one role of a storage hypervisor, whether built into a SAN or furnished as software for heterogeneous storage infrastructures.

Rather than ask its customers to amortize an expensive SAN across thirty desktops to supply that high availability, Pano Logic partnered with DataCore Software. Their new Pano Express HA virtual desktop infrastructure incorporates the DataCore SANsymphony-V storage hypervisor along with VMware software to provide real-time virtual machine replication, assuring that server failure causes no downtime. SANsymphony-V also increased virtual desktop performance for Pano Logic. With the storage hypervisor’s high-speed cache, Pano Express HA can support up to 60 users.

SANsymphony-V’s synchronous replication capabilities can unite any combination of disk storage devices into a single virtual storage pool maintained across two active mirrored servers. If either half of the storage infrastructure is taken down for maintenance or fails, the other server picks up the load without any user impact. Resynchronization is automatic, non-disruptive, and requires no special host scripts.

This is just one example of how DataCore’s storage hypervisor is helping a growing number of partners solve specific virtualization problems and deliver greater value to their customers. In future posts, I’ll share more such stories, to illustrate the wide range of benefits available from storage virtualization delivered by a software solution that works with any storage hardware.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

DataCore Storage Hypervisor [Video Interview]

GeorgeTexeira, CEO of Datacore, explains why DataCore "created" a storage hypervisor, and why auto tiering, the latest feature, is better in a software layer.

Monday 19 September 2011

Pano Logic Incorporates DataCore Storage Hypervisor in its 'one step VDI' Pano Express HA solution

Pano Logic Hits SMB Sweet Spot with Two Zero-Client Packages

Virtualization and zero-client company Pano Logic is hitting the scene with two new all-inclusive virtualization packages: servers, clients and software, all pre-packaged, pre-configured, bundled and ready to go right out of the box. They represent the next evolution of Pano Logic’s Pano Express, specifically geared for the SMB and remote offices. Both Pano Express SMB and Pano Express HA are built to support 30 and 60 power users respectively, in addition to the zero-client endpoints. Pano Logic calls them a “one-step VDI solution” since all the software and servers are preloaded with VMware vSphere and Microsoft Windows Sever 2008. But the HA version stands out in that it will allow for a storage protection layer via DataCore Software for VDI failover.

Based on Pano Zero Clients with VMware vSphere Essentials and DataCore’s SANsymphony™-V storage hypervisor software running in a redundant fault-tolerant configuration on enterprise-grade servers.

More info at:

Pano Logic Simplifies VDI Deployments

...The HA version includes a Fujitsu blade server and also includes Datacore Software's SAN Symphony V storage management software and a redundant storage array to handle failovers and high availability situations.

"While a number of joint partners have deployed our solutions in the past, the new bundle simplifies the process for both the partner and the customer," said Carlos Carreras, the VP of alliances at Datacore. "By delivering the HA bundle as an appliance, the user experience is simplified and they are able to immediately take advantage of the benefits offered."

Pano Logic woos SMBs with 'one-step' VDI

...The company introduced Pano Express SMB and Pano Express HA, servers that arrive with all the software you need to operate those little silver cubes, including Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and VMware vSphere 4 virtualization. The HA incarnation – that's "high availability" – also offers virtual storage software from DataCore that provides replication and failover.

Friday 9 September 2011

Defining a Storage Hypervisor

After reading Sid Herron's recent blog post (see below), I thought it would be useful to share his post and additional information links on the topic.

Storage Hypervisor Defintions:
  1. Wikipedia: Wikipedia entry on Storage Hypervisor
  2. Wiktionary: Wiktionary entry on Storage Hypervisor
  3. DataCore: Introducing the DataCore Storage Hypervisor and the Benefits of Hardware Interchangeability
  4. DataCore's Storage Hypervisor Definition and Features-at-a-glance
  5. Mooselogic's Sid Herron post:

What the Heck Is a “Storage Hypervisor?”

DataCore has recently issued a press release
positioning their new software release (v8.1) of SANsymphony-V as a “storage hypervisor.” On the surface, that may just sound like some nice marketing spin, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made – because it highlights one of the major differences between DataCore’s products and most other SAN products out there.

To understand what I mean, let’s think for a moment about what a “hypervisor” is in the server virtualization world. Whether you’re talking about VSphere, Hyper-V, or XenServer, you’re talking about software that provides an abstraction layer between hardware resources and operating system instances. An individual VM doesn’t know – or care – whether it’s running on an HP Server, a Dell, an IBM, or a “white box.” It doesn’t care whether it’s running on an Intel or an AMD processor. You can move a VM from one host to another without worrying about changes in the underlying hardware, bios, drivers, etc. (Not talking about “live motion” – that’s a little different.) The hypervisor presents the VM with a consistent execution platform that hides the underlying complexity of the hardware.

So, back to DataCore. Remember that SANsymphony-V is a software application that runs on top of Windows Server 2008 R2. In most cases, people buy a couple of servers that contain a bunch of local storage, install 2008 R2 on them, install SANsymphony-V on them, and turn that bunch of local storage into full-featured iSCSI SAN nodes. (We typically run them in pairs so that we can do synchronous mirroring of the data across the two nodes, such that if one node completely fails, the data is still accessible.) But that’s not all we can do.

Because it’s running on a 2008 R2 platform, it can aggregate and present any kind of storage the underlying Server OS can access at the block level. Got a fibre channel SAN that you want to throw into the mix? Great! Put fiber channel Host Bus Adapters (HBAs) in your DataCore nodes, present that storage to the servers that SANsymphony-V is running on, and now you can manage the fibre channel storage right along with the local storage in your DataCore nodes. Got some other iSCSI SAN that you’d like to leverage? No problem. Just make sure you’ve got a couple of extra NICs in the DataCore nodes (or install iSCSI HBAs if you want even better performance), present that iSCSI storage to the DataCore nodes, and you can manage it as well. You can even create a storage pool that crosses resource boundaries! And now, with the new auto-tiering functionality of SANsymphony-V v8.1, you can let DataCore automatically migrate the most frequently accessed data to the highest-performing storage subsystems.

Or how about this: You just bought a brand new storage system from Vendor A to replace the system from Vendor B that you’ve been using for the past few years. You’d really like to move Vendor B’s system to your disaster-recovery site, but Vendor A’s product doesn’t know how to replicate data to Vendor B’s product. If you front-end both vendors’ products with DataCore nodes, the DataCore nodes can handle the asynchronous replication to your DR site. Alternately, maybe you bought Vendor A’s system because it offered higher performance than Vendor B’s system. Instead of using Vendor B’s product for DR, you can present both systems to SANsymphony-V and leverage its auto-tiering feature to automatically insure that the data that needs the highest performance gets migrated to Vendor A’s platform.

So, on the back end, you can have disparate SAN products (iSCSI, fibre channel, or both) and local storage (including “JBOD” expansion shelves), and a mixture of SSD, SAS, and SATA drives. The SANsymphony-V software masks all of that complexity, and presents a consistent resource – in the form of iSCSI virtual volumes – to the systems that need to consume storage, e.g., physical or virtual servers.

That really is analogous to what a traditional hypervisor does in the server virtualization world. So it is not unreasonable at all to call SANsymphony-V a “storage hypervisor.” In fact, it’s pretty darned clever positioning, and I take my hat off to the person who crafted the campaign.

Thursday 1 September 2011

DataCore to Offer Free Storage Hypervisor to VMware Experts

DataCore Software, the industry’s premier provider of storage virtualization software, announced today that during VMworld 2011 it will offer free license keys of its breakthrough SANsymphony™ - V 8.1 storage hypervisor to VMware vExperts, VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDX), VMware Certified Professionals (VCP) and VMware Certified Instructors (VCI). The not-for-resale (NFR) license keys – available for non-production uses such as course development, training, lab testing and demonstration purposes – are intended to support virtualization consultants, instructors and architects involved in efforts aimed at managing and fully leveraging storage assets.

“Storage has been the forgotten tier of virtualization, routinely stalling projects and adding unforeseen complications and costs,” said Linda Haury, vice president worldwide marketing at DataCore Software. “By providing the SANsymphony-V storage hypervisor to these experts for home and office labs, they’ll be able to educate others about the most effective means for leveraging storage assets, a move which will advance virtualization adoption and benefit the industry as a whole.”

The free NFR license keys of SANsymphony-V 8.1 are available during VMworld, being held August 29 – September 1 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. The licenses may be used for non-production purposes only.

To receive a free license key, please visit the DataCore’s booth (#1321) or sign up next week at:; proof of VMware vExpert, VCDX, VCP and VCI certification is required.

DataCore to offer free storage hypervisor to VMware Experts

DataCore introduces SANsymphony-V Storage Hypervisor

DataCore Software has announced major enhancements to its centrally-managed SANsymphony™- V solution. Combined, these new features elevate SANsymphony-V to the role of storage hypervisor, placing customers in the unique position to fully leverage their existing storage assets, including direct-attached storage (DAS), storage area networks (SAN) and solid state disks (SSD), and negotiate the best deals among competing storage manufacturers without concern for long-standing hardware vendor lock-ins.

“The sprawl and multiplication of storage systems and the rising number of specialty devices are now the norm. The intelligence of a storage hypervisor provides a strategic advantage to managing the many as one,” said George Teixeira, president and CEO of DataCore Software. “SANsymphony-V enables users to take control of how their storage infrastructure evolves versus being subject to the dictates of tactical point-in-time decisions.”