Virtualisation: A remedy for hard times

Technical teams need re-assess how they optimise their environment. Virtualization --with its reduction in the physical footprint in terms of space, power and cooling -- can help.

The coming year is a good time for organisations to streamline the technology and processes of their storage and virtualisation divisions. That's because investment to the same degree as in previous years will be difficult to secure. And as new business requirements emerge, technical teams will be forced to re-assess the manner in which they make the best use of their current hardware and software.

It's likely that high-end storage arrays, and the tiers they provide, will be dramatically limited in terms of deployment and continued usage. With the recent midrange product announcements from major storage vendors, it has become more technically viable to sit data on these mid-tier systems. Increased hardware capabilities in terms of front-end connectivity, installed cache and back-end scalability, coupled with the persistent improvement in hard drive technology means that, for certain I/O workloads, mid-tier systems can now easily match their high-end cousins.

Software capabilities allowing intra- and inter-array replication, as well as generic management and reporting mechanisms are being harmonised between array tiers. Functionality in software suites and tools are rapidly approaching what has conventionally only been witnessed in high-end systems. The methodology and language between product and software offerings has been bridged, allowing for a more homogenous approach to deployment and management that reduces initial and ongoing costs.

The challenge will be to think more intelligently about the way in which existing resources have been implemented.

Redundancy and resiliency are features of high-end arrays that, by their nature, are still unparalleled by offerings available in other tiers. However, there are times when business requirements may not demand such high-end features. Application service levels need only be as good as required by business owners or users. This realisation will help management understand that a large number of environments previously existing on high-end arrays can be feasibly and successfully moved into the mid-tier.

Whilst the increased capabilities of midrange arrays will become apparent, so will the scope of consolidation in already virtualised environments. The first round of server virtualisations, completed during times of relative economic ease, focused on the physical-to-virtual relationship between managed objects. Hence, a collection of physical servers has been consolidated into an equally sized collection of virtual servers, with a reduction in the physical footprint in terms of space, power and cooling.

With the advent of more frugal times, the desire to enter into a more mature form of consolidation will see the further convergence of servers into a diminishing set of objects, but this time within the virtual sphere. A more rigorous investigation into technical utilisation and business requirements will increase the efficient use of virtual resources and reflect what has already come to pass in the physical domain.

When the initial despondency of these new economic times lifts, the challenge will be to think more intelligently about the way in which existing resources have been implemented. This will help optimise technical environments and prepare organisations to take best advantage of the next upturn.

BIO: Atiek Arian is a senior consultant at GlassHouse Technologies (UK), a global provider of IT infrastructure services. Arian has eight years of experience in IT systems, storage, disaster recovery and high availability.

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