Hitachi Data Systems CTO: virtualised machines need bullet-proof storage
Enterprises have to stop loading massively virtualised machines onto storage arrays that were designed for SMBs, says Michael Heffernan
Back to basics
It is essential to match the technology with the hardware that it is running on, he said. So if an IT manager wants to run hypervisor technology, that organisation needs to invest in hardware that can support the hypervisor.
“When you're dealing with hypervisor technology – VMware, Red Hat, XenServer – they're all Linux-based hypervisors with clustered shared file systems. Those volumes need random I/O, and the only hardware that supports this is SSD, or what they call wide striping, where you wide stripe with thin provisioning. That's the only way to get random workloads.”
However, many organisations are still not doing this, according to Heffernan. Instead, they are running their hypervisor technology on any old storage and building software on top of it, to hold it all together. While software can do a lot of the work there is a limit, said Heffernan, and as the load grows, “something's got to give”.
“NetApp are digging themselves into a big hole at the moment because they're trying to sell a lot more software,” he said. “Technically speaking, I always try to go back to basics, just go back to being very simple, very economic, very green.”
The key challenge for chief technology officers today, according to Heffernan, is to simplify their data centre infrastructures. With vendors all trying to create their own markets based on their own technologies, it is up to these CTOs to push back and demand simpler solutions that do the job that needs to be done.
“When you're an infrastructure guy, which is pretty much most customers, you have to deal with a lot of different vendors,” said Heffernan. “You've got your mainframe sitting there working, you've got your Unix systems, over there you've get some Windows, and over here a little bit of VMware – it's just a mess.”
Some CTOs end up buying a converged solution and getting locked into a vendor contract, because everyone is telling them different things and they do not want to deal with the problem. But Heffernan says these integrated infrastructures can be more trouble than they're worth, because they mask incompetencies rather than fixing them.
Consolidation is key
Some of Hitachi's customers are now looking at consolidating their infrastructure onto just two or three platforms. Heffernan says that the hypervisor market is now mature enough to justify organisations simply choosing one and making it a standard platform.
“A very large company in Germany has already made the decision to have mainframe and VMware as their two platforms. They have even got rid of all their NAS. In other words they worked out that 95 percent of their apps could run on either one of those platforms,” he said.
“That's common sense. Most people have some web servers, some Citrix, some Windows, Microsoft Exchange – all of these miscellaneous things. If you are really practical and you've got some common sense, you can put all that stuff on VMware or Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation. It might not be all the bells and whistles, but underneath it's robust, and it will stay up and running.”
Above all, organisations need to be wary of the hype around cloud computing, said Heffernan. Hitachi is currently working with Cisco to create a blueprint for a data centre infrastructure that is open and, unlike an integrated stack, does not lock customers in.
“I don’t like the cloud, I think it’s hot air. Because at the end of the day it’s a marketing term,” he said. “If you pull it to pieces what is it? It’s physical network, it’s physical storage and physical servers with some software. It’s just a big data centre, and the real question is, how do you get access to it, and how’s it copied from one place to another?”
Rather than simply buying equipment because vendors are telling them that they need it, CTOs need to start looking at their purchasing decisions within the wider context of their organisation, and considering how these technologies will affect their bottom line in the long run.