Virtualization has brought undeniable benefits to enterprise IT—reduced costs, server consolidation, increased flexibility, automated management and more. Coupled with powerful, scale-out x86 servers, virtualization enables enterprises of all sizes to move toward cloud architectures that achieve massive scale using commodity hardware, multi-tenant segmentation, elastic expansion, and automated self-service.
Unfortunately, all of the cost and agility benefits of enterprise virtualization come to a screeching halt when data reaches today’s connection based legacy storage network. In fact, legacy storage networking technologies such as Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), and iSCSI all evolved from mainframe-era one-to-one connection based designs. Mainframe protocols like FICON and ESCON ran on Fibre Channel, and the array designs grew out of this tradition. They require expensive custom networks, and manual configuration of every connection between servers and storage. Providing new storage to a VM takes hours of work, and days or weeks of man hours, instead of a few clicks. That’s not cloud!
Beyond the complexity and agility issues, legacy storage is fundamentally out of sync with cloud economics. Services like Amazon are offering storage for as little as $0.05 per gigabyte per month. Want to build your own cloud? Call up your favorite storage vendor, and they will charge you between $2.00 and $10.00 per gigabyte, before you even turn on the power. Not exactly a formula for profitability. The dirty little secret is that virtualization players have started taking storage costs off their ROI calculator -- when you upgrade to faster arrays to handle increased server density, storage costs blow away most of the savings from server consolidation.
Fortunately, there’s a new class of Ethernet SAN storage that mirrors the commodity hardware economics of the cloud. The protocols grew out of the Linux market, where they have been open and native in the Linux kernel since 2005. By 2009, Ethernet SAN technology was integrated with VMware, and had been adopted by more than 1000 customers worldwide. The new generation of SAN storage, built on bare-metal 10 Gigabit Ethernet and off-the-shelf storage servers, delivers faster performance than Fibre Channel at less than 20% of the cost, while eliminating multiple layers of complex storage management. Storage arrays can be deployed in as little as 60 seconds. Today more than 1300 user organizations, including Fortune 100 enterprises, movie studios, cloud providers, and the U.S. Department of Defense, have deployed Ethernet SAN.
To sum up, the bad news is that legacy storage technologies from top vendors kill the ROI of virtualization and complicate the evolution towards cloud architectures. The good news for 2011 is that next-generation Ethernet SAN technologies are arriving to improve storage performance, cut costs, and ease the way for scale-out cloud deployments in the enterprise.