A quick update on Virtualization Group Boston’s, “All About Storage” event. Thanks to our Community Sponsors: PerfectDisk, and StarWind Software. We had a great turnout with strong presentations from two big names in the industry, StarWind Software and PerfectDisk (Raxco Software). One of the topics we discussed and I wanted to explore more is iSCSI Storage and shared storage. Lots of people have been asking…"when do I use shared storage" and "‘why ?" so I thought I would try to quickly answer these questions.
SAN (Storage Area Network) or what some people call Shared Storage, and especially iSCSI Storage, has been a hot topic at virtualization forums. Outside of the virtualization circles, there have been many questions about reasons for using iSCSI shared storage:
1. Your existing Ethernet network already supports iSCSI: iSCSI simply encapsulates SCSI commands in IP and transfers the storage data via TCP/IP. If you can setup a Linksys router, you can setup networked storage and you are good to go! I got my iSCSI SAN device setup and hosting a VM in about 5 mins with no special hardware. I actually used a laptop running Windows Server 2008 on my first test system.
2. Ability to centralize your storage: Not only does this enable you to plan your disaster recovery and business continuity but also, with centralized shared storage, you can now dynamically provision storage to any of your server applications which need it. In fact, it does not even have to be a server. In one case, I created a target that my laptop uses for fast network storage. I have one setup on expensive SCSI 320 disk array for VM’s and other things that I need fast disk access and another on on a SATA drive set for very inexpensive storage. I use this very inexpensive storage solution for store all of my ISO images from my TechNet subscription and other downloads. I also store VM’s that I have taken offline but may need to bring back online in the future. Having them on the inexpensive storage is smart and I can still bring them online almost instantly in case I need them in a hurry. Obviously these simple reasons for storage are not the mainstream uses.
3. Server Clustering: You need shared storage to configure server clusters which permits you to have a high availability and fault tolerant environment. With shared storage you can now have automatic failover of Hyper-V servers, SQL or Exchange servers or any other server applications. No downtime! Imagine that.
4. Scaling your business as your data infinitely grows: With Networked Storage, instead of pulling drives, you can provision disks. Instead of buying a new additional SAN, you can just add disk to an existing storage server. It's that easy. This is out of the box thinking which will save valuable budget dollars without adding additional tasks to your daily duties.
5. Data Level Protection: Shared storage solutions on the market today offer volume/block level protection to enhance backup and recovery practices. Be it scheduled automatic snapshots, synchronous data mirroring, or the ability to replicate remotely to a second site, it’s important to have a multifaceted approach to protecting your storage data. Are storage vendors encouraging you to adjust or move away from your current application level backup approach? Of course not! But Storage Disaster Recovery ensures that your data (and you) are protected from loss and can rest assured about your SLA agreements.
6. Data backup: You may have noticed that the data center as well as small and medium businesses (even home users) are moving to online disk for backup. Now, I know many are saying that you no longer need tape. I am not of that mindset. I believe in a dual backup strategy. Short-term and very fast backup to disk and long term backup to tape. Most backup solutions on the market today have an option to backup to disk. Then from that disk they can backup to tape . Setting this back to go to your centralized storage give huge performance benefits. This can greatly increase the performance of the backup. This increased performance means more data and more servers can be protected in an ever shrinking window.
Finally, how could I leave out Virtualization?
7. LiveMigration with Hyper-V and SCVMM is one the main attractions to rolling out a virtualization environment. The ability to seamlessly move VMs from one hypervisor host to another enhances disaster recovery in ways that we could only imagine years ago. But the underlying storage supporting Hyper-V allows for live migration to be active and in use. Don’t be left behind, your virtualization deployment can be so much better with storage virtualization. The enhancements of Hyper-V with Windows Server 2008 R2 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) make shared storage a must have component on your network.