VMware Virtual Volumes (VVols) stands poised to fundamentally and positively change storage management in highly virtualized environments that use VMware vSphere. However enterprises will only realize the full benefits that VVols have to offer by implementing a backend storage array that stands ready to take advantage of the VVols architecture. The HP 3PAR StoreServ family of arrays provide the virtualization-first architecture along with the simplicity of implementation and ongoing management that organizations need to realize the benefits that the VVols architecture provide short and long term.
VVols Changes the Storage Management Conversation
VVols eliminate many of the undesirable aspects associated with managing external storage array volumes in networked virtualized infrastructures today. Using storage arrays that are externally attached to ESXi servers over either Ethernet or Fibre Channel (FC) storage networks, organizations currently struggle with issues such as:
- Deciding on the optimal block-based protocol to achieve the best mix of cost and performance
- Provisioning storage to ESXi servers
- Lack of visibility into the data placed on LUNs assigned to specific VMs on ESXi servers
- Identifying and reclaiming stranded storage capacity
- Optimizing application performance on these storage arrays
The VVols architecture changes the storage management conversation in virtualized environments that use VMware in the following ways:
- Protocol agnostic. VVols minimize or even eliminate deciding on which protocol is “best” as VVols work the same way whether block or file-based protocols are used.
- Uses pools of storage. Storage arrays make raw capacity available in a unit known as a VVol Storage Container to one or more ESXi servers. As each VM is created, the VMware ESXi server allocates the proper amount of array capacity that is part of the VVol Storage Container to the VM.
- Heightened visibility. Using the latest VMware APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA 2.0), the ESXi server lets the storage array know exactly which array capacity is assigned to and used by each VM.
- Automated storage management. Knowing where each VM resides on the array facilitates the implementation of automated storage reclamation routines as well as performance management software. Organizations may also offload functions such as snapshots, thin provisioning and the overhead associated with these tasks onto the storage array.
VVols’ availability make it possible for organizations to move much closer to achieving the automated, non-disruptive, hassle-free storage array management experience in virtualized environments that they want and have been waiting for years to implement.
Robust, VMware ESXi-aligned Storage Platform a Prerequisite to Realizing VVols Potential
Yet the availability of VVols from VMware does not automatically translate into organizations being able to implement them by simply purchasing and installing any storage array. To realize the potential storage management benefits that VVols offer requires deploying a properly architected storage platform that is aligned with and integrated with VMware ESXi. These requirements make it a prerequisite for organizations to select a storage array that:
- Is highly virtualized. Each time array capacity is allocated to a VM, a virtual volume must be created on the storage array. Allocating a virtual volume that performs well and uses the most appropriate tier of storage for each VM requires a highly virtualized array.
- Supports VVols. VVols represent a significant departure from how storage capacity has been managed to date in VMware environments. As such, the storage array must support VVols.
- Tightly integrates with VMware VASA. Simplifying storage management only occurs if a storage array tightly integrates with VMware VASA. This integration automates tasks such as allocating virtual volumes to specific VMs, monitoring and managing performance on individual virtual volumes and reclaiming freed and stranded capacity on those volumes.
HP 3PAR StoreServ: Locked and Loaded with VVols Support
The HP 3PAR StoreServ family of arrays come locked and loaded with VVols support. This enables any virtualized environment running VMware vSphere 6.0 on its ESXi hosts to use a VVol protocol endpoint to directly communicate with HP 3PAR StoreServ storage arrays running the HP 3PAR 0S 3.2.1 MU2 P12 or later software.
Using FC protocols, the ESXi server(s) integrates with the HP 3PAR StoreServ array using the various APIs natively found in VMware vSphere. A VASA Provider is directly built into HP 3PAR StoreServ arrays which recognizes vSphere commands. It then automatically performs the appropriate storage management operations such as carving up and allocating a portion of the HP 3PAR StoreServ storage array capacity to a specific VM or reclaiming the capacity associated with a VM that has been deleted and is no longer needed.
Yet perhaps what makes HP 3PAR StoreServ’s support of VVols most compelling is that the pre-existing HP 3PAR OS software carries forward. This gives the VMs created on a VVols Storage Container on the HP 3PAR StoreServ array access to all of the same, powerful data management services that were previously only available at the VMFS level on HP 3PAR StoreServ LUNs. These services include:
- Adaptive Flash Cache that dedicates a portion of the HP 3PAR StoreServ’s available SSD capacity to augment its available primary cache and then accelerates response times for applications with read-intensive I/O workloads.
- Adaptive Optimization that optimizes service levels by matching data with the most cost-efficient resource on the HP 3PAR StoreServ system to meet that application’s service level agreement (SLA).
- Priority Optimization that identifies exactly what storage capacity is being utilized by each VM and then places that data on the most appropriate storage tier according to each application’s SLA so a minimum performance goal for each VM is assured and maintained.
- Thin Deduplication that first assigns a unique hash to each incoming write I/O. It then leverages HP 3PAR’s Thin Provisioning metadata lookup table to quickly do hash comparisons, identify duplicate data and, when matches are found, to deduplicate like data.
- Thin Provisioning that only allocates very small chunks of capacity (16 KB) when writes actually occur.
- Thin Persistence that reclaims allocated but unused capacity on virtual volumes without manual intervention or VM timeouts.
- Virtual Copy that can create up to 2,048 point-in-time snapshots of each virtual volume with up to 256 of them being available for read-write access.
- Virtual Domains, also known as virtual private arrays, offer secure multi-tenancy for different applications and/or user groups. Each Virtual Domain may then be assigned its own service level.
- Zero Detect that is used when migrating volumes from other storage arrays to HP 3PAR arrays. The Zero Detect technology identifies “zeroes” on existing volumes which represent allocated but unused space on those volumes. As HP 3PAR migrates these external volumes to HP 3PAR volumes, the zeroes are identified but not migrated so the space may be reclaimed on the new HP 3PAR volume.
HP 3PAR StoreServ and VVols Bring Together Storage Automation, Optimization and Simplification
HP 3PAR StoreServ arrays are architected and built from the ground up to meet the specific storage requirements of virtualized environments. However VMware’s introduction of VVols further affirms this virtualization-first design of the HP 3PAR StoreServ storage arrays as together they put storage automation, optimization and simplification within an organization’s reach.
HP 3PAR StoreServ frees organizations to immediately implement the new VVols storage architecture and take advantage of the granularity of storage management that they offer. By HP 3PAR StoreServ immediately integrating and supporting VVols and bringing forward its existing, mature set of data management services, organizations can take a long awaited step forward to automate and simplify the deployment and ongoing storage management of VMs in their VMware environment.