Real storage for a virtual world

by Robin Harris on Monday, 21 May, 2012

More virtual machines than physical machines were sold last year. What does that mean for storage?

As noted 4 years ago in The virtual machine I/O blender

Engineers have spent decades optimizing the OS, drivers, caching, controllers and disks for specific workloads.

Observed behavior such as locality of reference have informed many strategies. Like read-ahead.


But when you put 25 virtual machines on a single server, what happens to all this hard-won empiricism? It’s gone.

The new empiricism
Enter Tintri. Their mission: making storage for virtual machines more efficient.

Co-founder Kieran Harty was an engineering VP at VMware. The other co-founder, Mark Gritter, was part of Kealia, a server company founded by Andy Bechtolsheim and bought by Sun. Architect Ed Lee has deep storage experience dating from Berkeley’s RAID work in the late 80s.

Tintri brings several ideas to the issue of VM storage.

  • A VM-aware file system
  • Inline dedup, compression and a hybrid file system that manages flash and SATA drives as a single pool
  • Managing VMs directly through interaction with vCenter
  • Manage VMs, not LUNS or volumes
  • Automatic VM alignment

The StorageMojo take
Much of this mirrors good ideas that other 21st century storage companies have adopted. The big win is the Tintri’s direct management of VMs.

What this means in practice is that an admin looks directly at the I/O activity of each VM, not on a LUN or volume basis, but at the VM level. Which means the array is doing the same thing, able to optimize performance for each VM based on what the VM is doing in real time.

If a VM starts gobbling up storage and bandwidth, it’s easy to see which VM is the problem. This should be tied to a good chargeback system as well.

There are many products that improve – often dramatically – VM storage and performance. But making the VM the unit of storage is brilliant and opens the door to many more enhancements.

Tintri is expecting to support other hypervisors in the not-too-distant future.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. I attended the Tintri presentation as a Tech Field Day delegate. The vendors who presented at the TFD paid for the privilege, which funded my travel expenses.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jacob Marley May 27, 2012 at 10:58 am

For virtualization, NAS based shared storage (NFS) can provide better I/O visibility then SAN. It also enables the prioritization/SLA of I/O for individual VMs.

Which other storage vendors provide direct vCenter storage plug-in?

Could, what Tintri does in an appliance, be done in as a NAS gateway/head for regular iSCSI storage?

Jacob Marley June 5, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Reading Tintri’s specs they say they support 100s of virtual desktops on one appliance.

Isn’t that kind of low?

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