Storage Design Considerations- Part 1: Overview

Storage is perhaps one of the most critical piece in any virtualized environment. All the virtual workloads in a small or large environment is running on some sort of storage. It may be either local disks present in a server or can be cheap NAS devices or the expensive SAN devices.

A lot of innovation is going on in storage technology and it’s kinda fueled by the capabilities which are induced in the new hardware versions of the devices. Storage is just not about how much space you are getting against every dollar invested. The advancements in virtualization has affected storage seriously and it is now much more than just capacity.

Due to this reason the vSphere 5.0 release is also known as storage release sometimes. Features such as Storage vMotion help abstract not just the server hardware but also the storage. Storage DRS and Profile Driven Storage features has allowed the admins to get more value from the expenditure made on storage.

When it comes to designing storage for your environments, the below mentioned factors plays very important role:

1: Designing for Availability

2: Designing for Performance

3: Designing for Capacity

4: Designing for Cost

For very large organizations point 4 can be of least importance as they can invest a lot of money on Enterprise class SAN devices for their Production and Pre-Production environment. But for SMB’s cost plays a very important factor as they have limited budget and requires a lot of approvals from management or stakeholders before purchasing a really expensive storage device.

There are several other factors which can be taken into considerations while choosing the storage device for your environment. These can include:

A: Watts/IOPS: This typically covers how much electricity each disk consume and in turn how much IOPS you are getting in return.

B: Management Overhead: It can includes the choice of protocols used for managing and operating Storage devices.

For e.g. If you are relying on using NAS devices and connecting to your storage devices using NFS technology then maybe you can utilize your existing resources for e.g. your Ethernet topology to connect to the NAS box.

On the other hand if you are choosing expensive Enterprise class SAN devices and planning to use SCSI then you have to setup SAN switches and fibers and your existing Ethernet topology is not of much use for you in this case.

C: Flexibility: Your storage design should be flexible to adapt the changes. These days a lot of changes are happening in the storage technology and it’s not the same way it was used earlier

In next posts of this series I will try to touch down on each point listed above so that we can have better understanding of how we should look for the storage design for our environment.

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