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Virtualization drives advances in storage management

Enterprises are looking to manage server and storage resources in tandem, but tools to automate the process aren’t fully baked

By , Network World
May 02, 2007 11:09 AM ET

Network World - The convergence of server and storage management is slowly taking place as enterprises look for more automated ways of managing their data center assets. Spurring the trend toward convergence — which remains somewhat hampered by a lack of available tools — is virtualization technology.

“If you don’t believe servers and storage have converged, all you need to do is take a look at server and storage virtualization," says Greg Schulz, senior analyst for Storage IO. “Let’s go way back — originally servers and storage were managed together, then they were separated, and now they are being put back together again."

Virtualization technology lets administrators divide physical servers or storage devices into logical virtual machines that can support different operating systems and applications.

Automating server and storage provisioning
Vendors continue to refine software that can handle both storage and server management, including provisioning.

Company and product Primary design focus Latest features
Akorri BalancePoint Application, servers, storage Examines and analyzes VMware and Oracle environments.
BladeLogic Servers Manages VMware ESX virtual environments.
EMC VMware VirtualCenter and VMotion Servers Small and midsize business suite of products.
HP Storage Essentials Storage Standard Edition for small and midsize businesses.
IBM System Director Servers Update manager tracks firmware and driver updates.
IBM Virtualization Manager Servers Upcoming support for Xen virtualized environments.
Onaro Storage, applications Application performance analysis.
Opsware System 6 Servers, storage, network, applications Opsware Virtualization Director support for VMware, Microsoft Virtual Server, Sun Solaris and XenSource.
Symantec Server Foundation Provisioning Manager and Application Director Servers, storage, applications Workflow engine to correlate change and provisioning process between servers and storage applications; consistency checks for patching, configuration and provisioning.
Click to see: Automating server and storage provisioning

Businesses are looking to virtualization so they can consolidate server and storage resources; run multiple workloads on a single machine more efficiently; and dynamically provision resources as application and business needs shift.

Server virtualization software from companies such as VMware, SWsoft, Virtual Iron and XenSource has been adopted by leagues of users; according to IDC, more than three-quarters of companies with 500 or more employees use virtual servers, and 45% of all new servers purchased in 2006 were virtualized.

However storage virtualization deployments are less mainstream. IDC reports 49% of companies are evaluating storage virtualization, while 34% have implemented virtualization software or hardware. Enterprises are having difficulty adopting storage virtualization products to pool resources from multiple heterogeneous arrays because the software to do it is lacking.

Where the gaps are

When businesses deploy software for creating and managing virtual servers, the virtual machines typically get storage capacity from shared storage networks. Most link to Fibre Channel and IP storage-area networks (SAN) or network-attached storage devices — not direct server-attached storage. According to host bus adapter vendor Emulex, at least 70% of VMware ESX Server users get their storage from SANs.

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