This post was written by Tomohiro Igakura, Lead Engineer, IT Platform Division at NEC Corporation.
The VMware Virtual Volumes (vVols) storage framework is becoming recognized as a landmark technology that solves the challenges virtual environments continue to face. Officially released on February 3, 2015, vVols is a new feature of VMware vSphere® 6.0 and is expected to provide performance and operational efficiency by more closely linking virtual machines with shared storage. NEC has collaborated with VMware from the early days of Virtual Volumes development and is one of the first storage manufacturers to get a vVols-compatible storage series to the market.
The concept of vVols itself is quite simple: storage and servers recognize the data a virtual machine assesses as a new shared unit, a Virtual Volume. Since virtual machines correspond with Virtual Volumes on a one-to-one basis, it is possible to select a storage policy with a specific service level and granularly control which virtual machine should use that specific policy and service level. The various capabilities of the vVol-enabled storage products are available on a virtual machine basis.
NEC Storage Solutions for Environments that Deploy Virtual Volumes
The NEC Storage M Series, a suite of NEC storage products, not only offers the functions proposed by VMware for Virtual Volumes, but also a set of solutions designed to allow users to make the most effective use of an environment that deploys Virtual Volumes. The following shows some possible functions when using NEC storage in tandem with Virtual Volumes.
Storage Policies for Simplified Virtual Machine Operations
Since the storage system can identify the Virtual Volumes created for each virtual machine, it is possible to operate and manage storage data services on an individual VM basis. The server administrator can easily create a vVol by selecting a “storage policy” when creating a new virtual machine. This storage policy, often named gold or silver, is a template in which the information about the storage is configured, including its performance, importance, and whether individual functions should be used or not. Users can utilize a variety of storage-supplied features individually with the storage policies aggregated into the gold and silver groups.
NEC Storage IO Load Manager: I/O Control Functions for Each Virtual Machine
As storage and servers continued to become increasingly virtualized, more virtual machines will start accessing a single storage device. In this type of environment, a heavily loaded virtual machine can delay the processes on other machines of potentially higher priority services. I/O flow control ensures a certain level of performance to guarantee stable performance for mission-critical virtual machines. A commonly used I/O flow control function sets an upper limit of I/O. Once a virtual machine is loaded beyond its upper limit, by restricting the amount of I/O flow on the virtual machine, the function controls the flow in order not to affect others. In addition, NEC’s I/O flow control sets a lower limit for ensuring the performance level on an important virtual machine by restricting the I/O flow on other machines. The I/O flow on the virtual machine of high priority can avoid falling short of the lower limit, allowing the entire system to run stably according to its priority.
NEC Storage Performance Optimizer: Automatic Optimum Data Allocation for Each Virtual Machine
A storage unit usually consists of different types of physical disks including SSD, SAS HDD, and nearline SAS HDD, yielding different performance levels. It is inefficient to store frequently and less frequently accessed data blocks on the same drive of higher performance and cost. Instead, NEC’s optimum data allocation distributes data to disk blocks according to access frequency. The original algorithm automatically reallocates data files, analyzing them by time unit based on transmission amounts, application-specific access patterns (random/sequential, read/write) as well as the number of access counts.
Users can register upper/lower limits for I/O flow control and capacity balance of physical disks for automatic optimum data allocation with storage policies (such as gold and silver) beforehand. In mounting vVols spaces, users only need to select the registered storage policy to allocate the best-suited data blocks in the same storage pool depending on the usage. Without specifically focusing on storage properties, users can automatically maximize the performance and optimize the cost on their storage.
DDS is a technology directly connecting NEC Storage HS Series to NEC Storage M Series for server-less multi-generation backups. Virtualized environments require fast backups with multiple generations. Using a less costly storage device of large volumes like NEC Storage HS Series, which specializes in backups, is an efficient way to meet these requirements. While generally used backup system configurations need at least a backup server and backup software involving their installation and operational costs, the DDS solution allows simple backup configurations free from backup servers and software. DDS embeds deduplication for data compression leading to reduction in backup size. Delta backup is also supported. NEC Storage HS Series for backup use can be located in both nearby and remote sites, building up a disaster recovery backup system quickly and conveniently with reasonable operation, management, and communication costs.
NEC is Designed for Virtualization
In 2002, NEC forged a pioneering partnership with VMware, the leading provider in software virtualization. Since then, they have developed a number of products and solutions, including servers in the Express5800 series and storage products in the NEC Storage M Series, all of which are ideal for virtualization. Focusing on the development of storage capabilities that provide enhanced compatibility with VMware vSphere, NEC has brought to market a Storage Replication Adapter for VMware Site Recovery Manager, integration with Storage APIs for Array Integration, and a range of other products since 2009. For Virtual Volumes, the new framework of the recently released VMware vSphere 6.0, NEC started advanced evaluation* and their storage products were certified as being compatible at the same time VMware vSphere 6.0 was launched.**
For further information, visit NEC’s website to view the whitepaper for more details.
*There are only six companies in the world that have passed the ϐ certification test for vSphere Virtual Volumes; NEC is one of them.
**On March 12, 2015, NEC became the first Japanese company to acquire vSphere Virtual Volumes certification.