Taking a Closer Look at Flash Storage for Virtualization

In this chapter, you take a look at how hybrid storage arrays combined with the right set of advanced features can provide the solution your organization deserves. One example, Tegile’s intelligent flash array, is discussed to show how this solution is designed to provide the features you need.

Using In-line Data Reduction

Hybrid storage arrays use a combination of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), SSDs and hard disk drives, to provide the best mix of performance and capacity. Although SSDs can operate many times faster than traditional hard disk drives, SSDs are currently more expensive than their mechanical counterparts. This cost difference dictates that you make wise use of the space on a system’s SSDs in order to keep the array’s cost under control.

One very effective means of making the best use of available storage is to store as little redundant data as possible through a process known as de-duplication. Essentially, deduplication separates the information being stored into two parts – the actual data and metadata (which is information about what the data is and where it is stored). By separating the storage of data from the metadata, the same data only needs to be stored once, and the metadata tells the system how to find that data no matter how many different applications may need it.

A very good example would be the way server virtualization uses several instances of the same operating system image to run different virtual machines on the same server. With inline deduplication, these several OS instances can be created for their individual purposes, but only a single instance of the OS is stored in the array. Caching this single instance of the OS image in a fast storage media, greatly improves the performance for all users.

In addition to deduplication, data storage requirements can often be reduced significantly by compressing the data so it occupies less space. Unfortunately, the performance of legacy arrays is significantly impacted by deduplication and compression processes.

Because of the performance penalties often associated with deduplication and compression, many storage vendors only apply these technologies off-line, rather than in real-time. But Tegile’s patented IntelliFlash technology addresses the performance penalty associated with deduplication and compression, allowing both data reduction technologies to be applied to all data throughout the array, not just near-line or backup storage.

Applying Unified (NAS/SAN) Protocols

Flexibility and agility are key elements in a virtualized environment. New applications and use cases must be provisioned in hours, not months. This need introduces a huge sense of infrastructure unpredictability. IT decision makers must ensure the best level of flexibility in their virtualized infrastructure to absorb this unpredictability. Unified storage systems that can communicate over both block and file protocols offer this superior flexibility.

Instead of limited or proprietary protocol systems, you need the flexibility to choose the optimal connectivity protocol from a unified storage system that works with your existing infrastructure. Tegile’s intelligent flash arrays easily fit into existing enterprise storage environments without server-side agents so they can work alongside or replace your EMC, Dell, IBM, NetApp, HP, Hitachi or other arrays. Both storage area network (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS) deployments are supported by the intelligent flash arrays. Additionally, standard file-level protocols allow the numerous applications to share the same Tegile storage array.

Improving Performance

Performance of your storage array is a critical element in a virtualized environment. You need an array that can manage higher volumes of simultaneous transactions and additional concurrent users.

Because performance is such a critical element, it’s important to understand your options. For example, Tegile’s intelligent flash arrays are up to seven times faster than standard arrays.

Tegile’s arrays incorporate large amounts of memory and SSD optimization to provide high performance. These intelligent flash arrays also provides on-the-fly deduplication, compression, fast snapshots and instantaneous restores. In virtualized environments, you can easily manage more hypervisors and offset the disruptive impact of VDI boot storms – large numbers of users starting their systems and booting a system image at the same time, such as the beginning of a call center shift – all at a fraction of the cost of legacy arrays.

Increasing Capacity Efficiency

Efficient use of storage capacity enables you to do more within the same space. This type of efficiency makes better use of your server rack space, cuts energy usage, and reduces equipment expense. Not all storage arrays are equally efficient in how they store data. But the usable capacity of a Tegile intelligent flash array is up to five times its raw capacity allowing you to store more data per unit of rack space. Built using enterprise class SSDs and HDDs in standard server chassis, Tegile’s intelligent flash arrays consumes far less than half the size of most current storage arrays, reducing data center space and power consumption.

Tegile intelligent flash arrays support inline compression and block level deduplication of all data before it’s written to disk instead of the typical post-processing batch job that’s done after all the raw data is written to disk and used in other arrays. This inline processing uses high performance CPUs and ensures that the in-line compression and deduplication doesn’t add any latency to the transaction.

Virtualized environments inherently have a lot of duplicate data. The Tegile intelligent flash array is able to detect duplicate blocks of data and avoid writing these duplicate blocks of data to disk. This not only saves disk space but also improves throughput speeds because the data doesn’t have to be written to disk every time another instance is created.

Protecting Data

No matter the application, your data always is far more valuable to your organization than any of the hardware components in your system. Protecting your data is one of the most important functions of any storage array.

Your storage array needs to provide automatic protection for your data. Tegile’s intelligent flash arrays keep your applications online and protect you better than standard arrays because they come complete with unlimited automatic snapshots, clones and replication features. Automatic snapshots and clones can be scheduled differently for each volume. You can elect to back up critical virtual machines more frequently than less critical ones to save space and improve performance. Being VM-aware, Tegile’s IntelliFlash instant restore capabilities allow you to immediately roll back one machine or all machines to a previous state should the need arise. Additionally, the array’s automated replication feature backs-up only the data that’s changed, so even remote backups require less network bandwidth, hardware and administration.

In addition, Tegile’s intelligent flash arrays protect your data because they are architected with no single point of failure and automatic fail-over capabilities. These arrays include dual hot-swappable controllers, dual power supplies and hot drive spares for hardware failure protection.