Pillar streamlines storage provisioning for virtual environments

By Kevin Komiega

—In an effort to overcome performance and capacity utilization problems associated with deploying traditional storage systems in support of virtual server environments, Pillar Data Systems has introduced a set of pre-configured application profiles for its family of Axiom storage systems designed to hasten the storage provisioning process for virtual machines.

Pillar has announced the availability of application profiles for use in virtual server environments, including VMware and Oracle VM. The release builds on a series of application profiles Pillar has made available with the delivery of its Application-Aware Storage system, announced last month.

Pillar's director of product marketing, Rob Cummins, says the extension of application-aware storage profiles to virtual environments will help align storage resources with virtual server resources.

"We found a pretty big disconnect in how VMware assigns server CPU, memory, and networking resources to applications. We dug into how virtual machines behave and found that we can add storage profiles and map the virtual machine disk [VMDK] to one of our LUNs that can be spread across lots of drives in our virtual storage pool."

The VMDK format specification describes and documents the virtual machine environment and how it stores data. The VMDK specification is a critical piece of the virtual environment because it dictates how storage is provisioned, manipulated, patched, updated, scanned, and backed-up.

"By assigning application profiles in virtual environments we can start making order out of this chaos by tuning the I/O path and prioritizing storage resources," says Cummins.

The Pillar Axiom storage system allows administrators to define the application type and its associated values, and the system automatically tunes itself to deliver storage service levels based on application priority. The Axiom is capable of managing multiple and varying types of applications on a single platform, while maintaining the unique values and characteristics of each.

Administrators can provision storage and tune it to the application need and priority running on virtual servers by using the new application profiles. Administrators can select an application profile from a drop-down menu in the AxiomONE management console. Once selected, the profile automatically configures the Axiom in a way that maximizes performance for the application running in a virtual machine by assigning greater priority, more cache, and faster spindles to those actions deemed most important.

Cummins says the way the Axiom handles storage virtualization is similar to how VMware virtualizes server resources. "The way the Axiom is architected in terms of slicing up CPU and memory and optimizing data in a storage pool lines up well with how VMware provides server resources," he says. "And now, because customers can use these application profiles to quickly provision storage resources, they can roll out storage as quickly as they roll out new virtual machines."

Pillar's application-aware application profiles for VMware and OracleVM are built-into new Axiom storage systems and are available now for download for existing systems via Pillar's customer support Website.

This article was originally published on March 18, 2008