Feeds

Speedy storage server sales stumps sysadmin scribe: Who buys this?

Our man Trevor is left with more questions than answers

The essential guide to IT transformation

Sysadmin blog Every once in a while I need to ask a question I know is going to get me in a world of trouble. It's the sort of question that triggers panicked emails from corporate PRs, and sometimes even the odd thinly veiled threat for daring to ask such things in a public forum.

I'm pretty lucky in that Chris Mellor, Storagebod, and others, usually ask these sorts of questions for me. I get the answer to the thing that's been bothering me for some time without the drama or bullies.

But every so often something bothers me enough that I feel compelled to start asking things I know are going to cause a fuss.

Finding a kernel of truth

The first question for which I have no answer involves VMware's marketing around VSAN. I'm baffled.

When VSAN launched we were flooded with marketing blurbage that claimed VSAN was better than competing server SANs because it was built right into the hypervisor. It's in the kernel! It's faster! Buy VSAN and not the other guys! It solves cancer and grows you a full, thick head of hair! Overwhelm social media and flood every single industry event with VSAN; go go go!

OK, OK, VMware; let me hit the pause button so I can compare a few things.

For at least the past 12 months (and probably longer) VMware has been saying they are ready for "100 per cent virtual". Any and every workload is ready to be virtualised. Their hypervisor is efficient, refined, and ready to take over the world.

I don't really question that assertion. In truth, I haven't been able to throw anything at VMware's hypervisor that it can't take like a champ … and I get paid good money to try.

But wait: a non-VSAN server SAN is just a virtualised workload. Maxta, Nutanix, SimpliVity, and so forth – these use VMs that "own" disks and SSDs on the local host using the hypervisor's raw disk mapping capabilities. Server SANs lash together multiple servers' worth of storage into one big pool of centralised storage that serves the whole cluster.

If VMware is ready to serve any workload – including the most ridiculously demanding tier-one enterprise applications, big data and so on – then shouldn't it be more than capable of running non-VMware server SANs?

In theory, being built into the hypervisor means that VSAN doesn't have to deal with the context-switching overhead that fully virtual server SANs experience.

In practice, this isn't supposed to matter: because VMware's hypervisor is made out of such amazing awesomesauce, time spent in the hypervisor is supposed to be completely negligible (especially given that you can allocate set amounts of RAM and CPU etc for a given VM, and do things like raw disk mapping; it makes the hypervisor's job a lot easier).

I personally see two conflicting assertions here: that VSAN is so much better than fully virtualised server SANs because it runs in the hypervisor, and that the VSAN-less hypervisor is so awesome it can easily handle any workload – like, er, fully virtualised server SANs.

No doubt someone will be along to tell me which marketing droids are correct and which are wrong.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Pay to play: The hidden cost of software defined everything
Enter credit card details if you want that system you bought to actually be useful
HP busts out new ProLiant Gen9 servers
Think those are cool? Wait till you get a load of our racks
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
Community chest: Storage firms need to pay open-source debts
Samba implementation? Time to get some devs on the job
Silicon Valley jolted by magnitude 6.1 quake – its biggest in 25 years
Did the earth move for you at VMworld – oh, OK. It just did. A lot
VMware's high-wire balancing act: EVO might drag us ALL down
Get it right, EMC, or there'll be STORAGE CIVIL WAR. Mark my words
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.