The benefits of virtualization – server or storage – start to loose some of their shine as organizations come to grips with the reality of actually managing a virtualized environment. As the move from implementation to management, the hidden issues of managing virtualized environments become clearly exposed. It is for these reasons that storage providers like 3PAR are more tightly integrating their InServ Storage Servers with VMware’s vCenter Server management console to provide better management of virtual data centers.
Transitioning to a virtualized environment creates new requirements for the effective management of the underlying storage resources that are virtualized. This can become a challenge as many storage management tools were built for physical environments which make them of only marginal assistance when managing a virtualized environment.
Storage and system administrators are then left with an incomplete view into how physical resources in the virtual environment are used which creates knowledge and visibility gaps. These gaps result in:
- Increases in the amount of time and effort required to manage the environment
- The inability to definitively associate storage resources with specific virtual machines (VMs)
- The creation of complex, error-prone manual processes that try to do these virtual-to-physical mappings
Developed in part to help eliminate these types of issues, VMware vCenter Server provides an open plug-in architecture that supports the addition of new functionality from VMware and its partners. Through vCenter Server APIs, VMware’s partners can give VMware administrators new ability to manage their virtual and physical infrastructure through the vCenter console.
It is integration with these vCenter APIs that 3PAR announced yesterday. 3PAR’s new plug-in for vCenter Server provides an integrated view of individual VMs and the storage resources associated with them. In so doing, it bridges this visibility gap that exists in virtualized environments and provides a complete end-to-end mapping that graphically illustrates exactly what storage resources are associated with individual VMs.
Since all of 3PAR’s T-Class and F-Class storage servers support thin provisioning, 3PAR’s vCenter plug-in enables administrators to, at-a-glance, determine whether a LUN assigned to a VM is ‘Fat’ or ‘Thin’. Then if it is a “Thin’ LUN, VMware administrators can see what storage resources a given VM or VMDK is actually consuming as well as document the storage savings that they are achieving, an excellent benefit for those responsible for charge back of a “slice” of the virtualized environment back to users.
3PAR’s integration with vCenter also opens the door for 3PAR to introduce new management functionality which it promptly did in the form of VMware Recovery Manager. While 3PAR has supported snapshot functionality on its InServ storage servers for some time, storage administrators had to set up and schedule snapshots to occur from the 3PAR management interface. By integrating with vCenter, 3PAR extends these snapshot setup and scheduling capabilities so they can be performed by VMware administrators within vCenter.
The benefits of the 3PAR-vCenter integration go beyond just providing a convenient central management interface for administrators. By using vCenter as the platform to configure these snapshots, VMware administrators can also take consistent snapshots of the VM. Since vCenter is scheduling the snapshots on the 3PAR storage server, it first pauses the application on the VM so that the snapshot created is a restorable image of the application on the VM.
This integration reduces recovery management within VMware to almost a point-and-click operation. All VMware administrators essentially now need to do within vCenter is select the VM they wish to recover and they can essentially bring that VM back online rapidly. While there are a couple of other steps that administrators have to do once that step is done, these all can be done through vCenter.
If anything, possibly the biggest challenge that organizations may face is how to best internally administer this functionality. Often there is a dividing line, spoken or unspoken, between what tasks server and storage administrators perform. By making all of this functionality available from the vCenter console such that a single administrator can perform them, organizations need to give some thought to how they best want it administered. But probably better to have this choice than not having this functionality available at all.
The creation of virtual data centers is a new reality that many organizations are now in the process of putting in place. But once they are in place, the new reality of managing these virtualized environments immediately confronts them.
3PAR’s integration with vCenter and its new Recovery Manager feature provides a dose of reality in today’s world that many administrators are seeking out. vCenter already gives them the foundational platform to manage their virtual environments through a single console. Now with 3PAR’s advanced integration with vCenter, they get a comprehensive view into both physical and virtual infrastructures, an end-to-end mapping of their virtualized environment, and a new tool that enables them to schedule the snapshots and provide rapid recoveries of individual VMs on their own.