Microsoft Hyper-V + Virtual Storage = Utility Computing

Before breaking off into a sprint, and hyperventilating with Microsoft’s Hyper-V, it might be a good idea to take a slightly broader look at the purposes of virtualization and utility computing. When used properly, we can all agree that virtualization is changing the datacenter in a positive way by providing operational and economic benefits. Yet virtualization by itself does not create economic benefits. After all, virtualization is just the ability to abstract and hide the physical computing resources through the creation of a virtual machine (VM) with no initial cost benefit in doing so. In fact, in many environments virtualization may increase costs long term due to the new licensing and administration overhead that VMs create.

To reel this in, we really need to remember the two main edicts of server virtualization:

  1. Eliminate under-utilized server machines that waste resources and increase the total cost of ownership
  2. Fully utilize through virtualization properly sized server machines to optimize resource usage while lowering the total cost of ownership

When looking at a virtual technology such as Hyper-V, you have to ask yourself, “How will these two edicts be satisfied?” As a server virtualization technology, Hyper-V effectively offers users the ability to separate and share server resources amongst multiple VMs so that satisfies the virtualization piece. But how do we gain control so as to optimize resource usage and lower the total cost of ownership?

Purchasing a super computer and creating VMs when needed will just waste money as under-utilized server hardware sits idle. Server virtualization only becomes cost effective when IT is able to intelligently and dynamically provision across existing or well-suited hardware. Extending dynamic provisioning one step further into what has been coined utility computing enables IT to provide or purchase server resources as needed to satisfy fluctuating demands. The combination of virtualization and utility computing enables the creation of a more dynamic IT infrastructure that truly reduces datacenter costs through decreased hardware, energy and management overhead.

Storage virtualization is not much different than server virtualization when we take into account the above mentioned edicts. Under-utilized or over-allocated storage, with a sugar-coated virtualization lingo, does nothing to reduce IT costs. Letting disks spin while waiting for VMs to be created costs money. So utility computing, on the storage side, is also needed to help prevent datacenters from over-purchasing and over-allocating while still having storage available when demand dictates.

Implementing full virtualization requires quick and efficient provisioning of servers and storage. Bringing server virtualization and storage virtualization together, 3PAR, a provider of utility storage, recently announced support for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. Together, 3PAR’s Utility Storage and Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V give IT oranizations the ability to deliver software and hardware as a service for a complete utility computing environment by providing a more agile and resilient foundation with significantly enhanced capacity utilization and cost efficiency. Two unique features of 3PAR’s Utility Storage platform that enhance the value of Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V include:  

  • Inherent efficiency. 3PAR Utility Storage helps reduce capital expenditures by enabling customers to initiate a larger number of projects and deploy more virtual machines using fewer resources. Specifically with the use of 3PAR’s Thin Provisioning, organizations can substantially reduce the upfront capacity requirements of server virtualization deployments.  With thin provisioning, administrators are able to provision virtual capacity to a VM once and only purchase physical capacity only as VMs require more. This eliminates allocated but unused capacity while simplifying storage administration. Thin provisioning is a must-have for virtual server deployments.  If you have not thought about it yet, do so now – it will save you time and money.
  • Advanced internal virtualization. The 3PAR InServ Storage Server automatically stripes HyperV volumes widely across all disks for high and load balanced performance.  Because a physical server supports many virtual machines, server memory is quickly overrun with the aggregated workload.  Storage performance, and specifically read performance-from-disk becomes critical to delivering satisfactory virtual machine performance.  In fact, the level of performance-to-disk on the 3PAR array has allowed some customers to increase the number of virtual machines per server.  

Virtualization, by itself, will not deliver the most effective cost savings for an organization. Rather virtualization with a utility computing mindset is needed. As you look at your current environment, validate for yourself the existence or non-existence of static or un-flexible components. If you find server, network, or storage components that can not be dynamically distributed across your infrastructure it is probably time to rethink management tactics. For server and storage components, 3PAR’s Utility Storage and Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V work well together to enable organizations to deliver software and hardware as a service through server and storage virtualization–giving you the ability to take full advantage of a complete utility computing environment.

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