Linux Containers Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Kareen Kircher, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Open Source Cloud, SDN Journal

Containers Expo Blog: Article

The Brave New World of Storage Virtualization

Can you put your virtual environment on autopilot?

I recently found myself intrigued by an article by Jon William Toigo on Tech Target titled - Software-defined infrastructure or how storage becomes software. In his article, Toigo poses the question: Could a software-defined infrastructure, with software-based controls and policies, be the answer to managing and allocating storage? While I am sure Jon would agree we're all tired of the buzz words around "software-defined-anything", the fact of the matter is that we all use it anyway for lack of a better description of what's occurring today.

Storage specifically is one of those areas I always say is like organizing your room: everyone has their own way of doing it.  You want your dresser to be a certain height.  You want you mattress pointing a certain direction and the light shining through your window on your desk at just the right time of day.  The truth is, storage is the under-pinning of virtualization that everyone wants to architect and manage the way they want to, and no one is going to tell them otherwise... UNTIL - wait for it - ...software can manage this FOR people.

Where is the robot (I wish the Roomba folks would hurry up with this, but I digress;) that keeps your room exactly the way you want it to be?  The industry seems constantly to toss this idea around, but no one really seems to know where to find the solution.  The truth is that no matter what quirks people have with their storage, there is one goal everyone has in common: Ensuring applications have ability to consume the storage resources they need while preserving priority and business logic; as well as increasing efficiency without introducing risk.  This is the promise of every storage vendor on the planet trying to sell their latest auto-tiering, de-dupe, compression solution and all the wonderful bling to trick out their man cave.

The problem, however, is that virtualization obscures the lines with storage and it becomes intractably complex to manage the macro-level supply and demand of resources occurring across the stack. Traditional management tools - storage- and virtualization-related - are running into the limitations of their stats-based, linear approach to managing diverse environments.

An Illustration
As an illustration, let's use a real-life example. Let's assume we have a NetApp environment supporting VMWare.  The NetApp consist of 4 Aggregates spread across two filers.

  • Aggr 1 SATA and Aggr 2 SATA are on Controller A, and each Aggr comprises of 2 Volumes in VMWare
  • Aggr 3 SAS and Aggr 4 SAS are on Controller B, and each Aggr comprises of 2 Volumes in VMWare

Aggr1 sees a spike in IOPS driven by 3 virtual machines demanding IOPS on its 2 Volumes.  This results in Aggr1 utilizing 93% of its available IOPS capacity due to several high consumers, or "Bully" VMs (to use a traditional storage vendor's language).  To compound the issue, the high utilization on disk has now manifested itself up the stack and begins to impact the ability of other workloads to access the storage resources they require on Aggr1.


In this example, a traditional software management system for the storage platform will alert an administrator that the Aggr1 has exceeded a tolerable utilization on IOPS and that it is time for an administrator to act.  Similarly, the virtualization vendor (in this case VMWare), will generate alarms related to the virtualized components layered on top of the storage platform.


The administrator must then siphon through the charts and graphs in their storage vendor's tool, or their virtualization management system, with the end goal being some sort of resource allocation decision to intelligently allocate storage resources to the applications that need them while avoiding quality of service disruption at the expense of low-priority applications.

More likely the administrator needs to access both of these interfaces to try and accomplish this.  In this example, the resource decision might be to move the volume to separate aggregate on Controller A (when it reality this won't do much due to performance constraints underneath), move the volume itself to faster disk associated with a separate storage controller, or move the virtual machine to a volume hosted on Controller B.


Now the second part of this equation (and arguably more difficult to get right) is: How does the administrator ensure that the domino they decide to push over doesn't create another resource constraint within the environment?  Fundamentally, traditional storage vendor software offerings and virtualization management tools are incapable of understanding the impact and outcome of any prospective resolution because they simply do not analyze the interdependencies of this decision across both (virtualized) compute and storage components.  The best case for operations is a head start on the troubleshooting process after quality of service has already been impacted or is in the process of being degraded.

Are Things Even at Human Scale Anymore?
In order to truly accomplish a software-defined storage system, there needs to be a new type of management system capable of connecting these two obscure worlds for the purpose of intelligent decision making and resource allocation.

Toigo paints this gap perfectly when he states, "Our storage needs to be managed and allocated by intelligent humans, with software-based controls and policies serving as a more efficient extension of our ability to translate business needs into automation support."

Following this logic, this new system must go above and beyond looking at application issues in isolation to determine how to properly allocate the infrastructure's entire supply of finite storage resources to every virtualized workload and application - at scale.  Inevitably, this means looking across all application resource demands concurrently and then determining how to service each application's request for the best cost/benefit to the overall platform by allocating the supply of storage resource intelligently and in the most efficient way.   Ideally, this will be done prescriptively - before quality of service is degraded.

The second phase of this brave new world will involve incorporating business logic that allows the software-driven control plane to consider business constraints alongside of capacity and performance metrics in real time.   If tier 1 applications need to have priority for faster disk over low-priority applications, then the system should be set it and forget it.  If tier 3 applications must be confined to bronze or slow storage, then the constraint should carry over dynamically for any workload matching this criterion that is provisioned across the lifecycle of the environment.

If 20% overhead needs to be maintained across tier-1 storage resources, then software should be intelligent enough to control utilization below this level, instead of notifying administrators once they have crossed it and forcing them to bring the infrastructure back from the brink.

The reality is that everyone has their own idea how to best trick out their room - in this case, their precious storage. Administrators will never truly be comfortable with putting their storage architecture on auto-pilot until they can rest assured that their policies are maintained while assuring application performance.  Any system developed to tackle this brave new world, must be able to solve both of these goals simultaneously - a challenge that Toigo argues is beyond human capacity to do so at scale.

More Stories By Eric Bannon

A passion for econometric analysis and statistical modeling led Eric to… wait for it… software. Eric discovered that by leveraging IT algorithms, based on the principles of supply and demand, software can solve some of the biggest challenges in infrastructure and cloud management today.

Joining VMTurbo in 2011, Eric now serves as a Solution Architect, where he helps organizations unlock the full value of virtualization through the implementation of software-defined control. He holds a B.S. in Economics and Finance from Bentley University, and still likes to deconstruct James Heckman’s econometric models in his free time.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Big Data has been changing the world. IoT fuels the further transformation recently. How are Big Data and IoT related? In his session at @BigDataExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will explore the interplay of Big Data and IoT. He will anatomize Big Data and IoT separately in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. He will then analyze the relationship between IoT and Big Data, specifically the drilldown of how the 4Vs of Big Data (Volume, Variety,...
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Embotics, the cloud automation company, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Embotics is the cloud automation company for IT organizations and service providers that need to improve provisioning or enable self-service capabilities. With a relentless focus on delivering a premier user experience and unmatched customer support, Embotics is the fas...
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, will discuss how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team a...
The Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), sponsor of the IoTivity open source project, and AllSeen Alliance, which provides the AllJoyn® open source IoT framework, today announced that the two organizations’ boards have approved a merger under the OCF name and bylaws. This merger will advance interoperability between connected devices from both groups, enabling the full operating potential of IoT and representing a significant step towards a connected ecosystem.
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
What are the successful IoT innovations from emerging markets? What are the unique challenges and opportunities from these markets? How did the constraints in connectivity among others lead to groundbreaking insights? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Carmen Feliciano, a Principal at AMDG, will answer all these questions and share how you can apply IoT best practices and frameworks from the emerging markets to your own business.
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, will be adding the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining sensor...
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to impr...
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, will draw together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established ...
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will w...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here