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Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know that I usually try to put something together after I've attended a conference. Here is an article about things which I thought were cool at VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas. Of course, I was also at VMworld 2011 (EMEA) in Copenhagen last week, so I'd thought I'd have a check around the Solutions Exchange and see what else caught my eye.

My Usual Disclaimer – I have to remain vendor neutral on anything I post here, so once again I want to make it clear that VMware doesn't favour any one storage partner over another. I'm not personally endorsing any of these vendor's products either. The partners listed in this post are here simply because I think what they are doing is interesting or innovative. Keep in mind that I don't get to spend time with every single exhibitor, so please do your own research if considering using any of these products. However, I hope you still find the post informative.

So what did I see?

Diskeeper V-locity 3 – I definitely wanted to look these guys up as we had some communication offline before the show. The discussions we had revolved around one of the most tweeted articles that I wrote on this blog, namely the 'Should I defrag my Guest OS?' article. I managed to grab a coffee with Spencer Allingham who is the Technical Director of Diskeeper in the UK, and we had an interesting chat about the side effects of a defrag on a Virtual Machine disk, basically the issues I discussed in the blog post. What Spencer told me was that their V-locity 3 product is now VM feature aware, and that it can automatically turn off defrag if those VM features which cause unwanted side-effects are discovered (e.g. Thin Provisioning, etc). Even better still, V-locity 3 has proprietary IntelliWrite technology which optimizes file placement and attempts to prevent file fragmentation in the first place. It sounds like this could be a pretty cool product to evaluate if you believe that your Guest OS'es are suffering performance issues from excessive fragmentation. Find out more about Diskeeper here, including a trial download of V-locity 3.

Nexenta – Many regular readers and followers in the virtual storage community will have heard about Nexenta and their participation in the VMworld Hands On Labs (HOL), possibly via this very favourable article in The Register online news site. The comments in the article are just as interesing. After reading the article, I wanted to learn more about their products. I met with Andy Bennett (Director, Sales Engineering) & Craig Morgan (Principal Solutions Engineer) who gave me a very detailed overview of their storage offering. Nexenta's storage solution is based around Open Solaris & the ZFS file system. Nexenta can present both NFS & iSCSI, with the iSCSI datastores having full support for VMware’s vSphere Storage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI). My understanding is that VAAI support for NFS is planned as well as a VASA vendor provider. Nexenta also has vSphere plugins to allow the management of the storage from the vSphere client, which is very neat. However, the thing which jumps out the most from the Nexenta solution is their Aura interface. At their stand at VMworld, Nexenta were able to display in real-time the utilization of their storage from the HOLs. Information like the most frequently accessed files (VMDKs), backend IOPS, NFS reads and writes operations from each ESXi server in the lab are displayed in a very digestable and unique manner.  The Aura interface also displays 'chords' representing bandwidth attached to each of the ESXi servers. This made it extremely easy to see, at a glance, the bandwidth utilized by each ESXi server to the storage. The color of the chord changed depending on the consumed bandwidth. The thing is that Nexenta could tune to performance statistics on a per metric, so if the VMware guys running the HOL wanted to see something specific in the performance, Nexenta could very easily map out a new metric to be displayed in the Aura interface. The reason they can do this is due to the availability of the dtrace utility in Open Solaris. Very cool indeed. In fact, from chatting with the guys, they are looking at a project which will allow these advanced storage metrics to be fed into VMware's vCenter Operations product. Learn more about Nexenta here.

Pivot3 – I had briefly met some of the guys from Pivot3 at VMworld in Las Vegas in September, but had the chance to spend a bit more time with them at Copenhagen. I was given an overview of their vSTAC appliance solution, which comes with ESXi 5.0 pre-installed, presents multi-port iSCSI targets to the host and is basically ready for deployment by a vSphere admin with limited SAN knowledge. Pivot3 claim that a single appliance can support up to 100 VDI desktops, and has full support for vSphere features like vSphere HA, Fault Tolerance, vMotion & Site Recovery Manager. From chatting to Lee Caswell & Olivier Thierry at the show, Pivot3's aim is to provide a very simple Scale-Out Storage solution thru their vSTAC offering. At VMworld in Copenhagen, Pivot3 announced a complete VDI out-of-the-box solution for VMware View using Pivot3's vSTAC VDI. If more VDI desktops are needed, more vSTAC appliances can be 'stacked' together seemlessly to meet the need. The guys also mentioned that the vSTAC solution is also certified through VMware's new Rapid Desktop Program. What is cool about this is that the appliance contains pre-configured trial licenses of VMware View & VMware vCenter Server. Basically it is ready to run, and all a customer needs to do is add the correct licenses. Pivot3 were one of a number of storage vendors which are verified for this program so I'll follow up on what this program is about in a future article.  More about Pivot3 can be found here.

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About the Author

Cormac Hogan

Cormac Hogan is a Senior Staff Engineer in the Office of the CTO in the Storage and Availability Business Unit (SABU) at VMware. He has been with VMware since April 2005 and has previously held roles in VMware’s Technical Marketing and Technical Support organizations. He has written a number of storage related white papers and have given numerous presentations on storage best practices and vSphere storage features. He is also the co-author of the “Essential Virtual SAN” book published by VMware Press.