IBM and VMware Team Up on Storage

IBM has been virtualizing its systems for decades. VMware dominates virtualization in the x86 systems environment and made it a strategic force there. Now these two virtualization industry leaders are teaming up and putting it to work for storage systems. Virtualized storage is essential for optimizing virtualized environments and backing up virtualized systems.

To date, virtualization has tended to focus on servers, providing the foundation for large scale server consolidation. Storage virtualization, however, has seemed at best to be an afterthought.  That is until the advent of cloud computing. In his newest book Cloud, Virtualization, and Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2012) author and storage industry analyst Greg Schulz restores storage virtualization to its rightful spot alongside server virtualization. “The importance of main or processor (server) memory and external storage is that virtual machines need memory to exist when active and a place on disk to reside when not in memory,” he writes. In short, server and storage virtualization go hand in hand.

This becomes most obvious when trying to take advantage of the mobility of VMs, which is one of the most powerful capabilities of the virtualized environment.  Effective VM mobility requires the associated storage move too, and do so non-disruptively.  This requires close cooperation between the storage and the hypervisor.

The teaming up of IBM and VMware bring together the broadest portfolio of proven virtualization solutions for maximum choice to meet most organization’s needs. As this IBM Red Book shows, IBM storage and VMware have been working together for a while. They also are forging deep integration between their products for enhanced features and usability. Another more recent IBM Red Book on storage and VMware ESX is here. Finally, they promise to deliver the comprehensive service and support needed to simplify changes. For technology users, the partnership promises to dramatically reduce the complexity of IT virtualization and, in the process, significantly lower IT costs while increasing IT flexibility and business agility.

This is not just a sales or marketing alliance. IBM and VMware have joined together to complete real technical work with tangible implications in terms of features and capabilities. Specifically, IBM has 40 products certified on the VMware Compatibility Guide for vSphere 5.0. Also, IBM has taken advantage of all of VMware’s storage APIs. For example, integrating with VMware’s Site Recovery Manager (SRM) for backup to the cloud, VMware’s VAAI for array integration, its VADP for data protection, VMware VASA for storage tiering and allocation, VMware management plug-in APIs for IBM-specific storage management in vSphere.

This teamwork is continuing. They should be formally certifying metro storage clustering through the vVMC API, are engaging in active development of virtual volumes using VVOL, and using the VASA API in conjunction with VVOL for next generation storage awareness.

IBM also is leveraging vMotion with SVC to create stretched clusters up to 300 km apart. This will allow virtual servers and their storage to be transparently moved across data centers while SVC enables support for virtually all heterogeneous vendor storage.

The two companies also are using VMware’s SRM with IBM’s XIV to consolidate, ensure availability, and simplify disaster recovery of SAP deployments. They also have combined VMware View with IBM Storwize v7000 to enable VDI while using VMware View Composer to reduce storage capacity requirements by over 60%

To date, IBM reports more than 20,000 joint VMware customers. More importantly, given that storage and server virtualization are still evolving, the companies have collected over 800 VMware-IBM storage configurations in a reference database, which will prove invaluable as organizations look for what really works.

And IBM doesn’t expect to limit the experience it has gained with VMware to just that hypervisor. The storage requirements for virtual servers are not very different from one hypervisor to another. Expect to see similar things with IBM storage and virtualized servers running KVM or Hyper-V or maybe even Ubuntu.

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