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Partitioning in network, storage systems (Part 2)

Posted: 29 Sep 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:virtualisation  network  storage  partitioning  stateful server 

The answer is yes AND no. The "yes" part is simple in that virtualized environments leverage hypervisor technology to present the operating system with a consistent view of the devices regardless of the underlying physical hardware, and this provides the flexibility and mobility to prevent lock-in. However, a virtualized solution does not cover all aspects of an enterprise datacenter and therein lies the "no" part.

The first consideration is the hypervisor itself. We tend to forget about the hypervisor because it is invisible to most parts of an organisation. However, the hypervisor is a key responsibility of IT—they own installing and maintaining every hypervisor in the datacenter. The reality is that the hypervisor is just another bare metal operating system, which has all of the same stateful server issues that any bare metal operating system might have. So, that lock-in problem has simply moved from the OS and application down a level to the hypervisor.

The second consideration is the little-talked-about reality of virtualisation in the enterprise. That is, not all applications can run in a virtualized environment. While most enterprise organisations have already moved 70-80% of their applications into a virtualized environment, they have not made progress in moving the remaining 20-30% (figure).

Figure: While the majority of network installations have moved applications into a virtualized environment, 20-30 per cent remains to be converted.

These remaining applications are locked into a bare metal environment for reasons that include licensing, support, security, compliance, and/or performance considerations. And, because these applications cannot participate in the virtualized solution, they suffer from the lock-in that is associated with a stateful architecture.

As it turns out, all lock-in problems can be resolved with the storage and network partitioning technologies we talked about in the first part of this article. It's interesting that partitioning technology, driven by the needs of virtualisation, has actually ended up helping bare metal environments as well. Let's examine how it actually helps, starting on the network side of things.

Bare metal platforms
The multi-channel feature we discussed can be used to define the bare metal server network interfaces via software. That means you can create virtual network interfaces on a bare metal platform – defining the number of network interfaces and the identity of those interfaces. This technology provides the same type of abstraction that the hypervisor provides for the guest operating systems, but for bare metal operating systems. In the Windows server example above, the new server would be programmed to have the same network identity as the original server, and therefore the Windows operating system would actually believe it was running on the same set of network interfaces, thus avoiding the network transition pitfalls.

On the storage front, the HBA partitioning capability offers the analogous solution for storage. The server's new HBA adapter can be programmed to have the same storage identity that the original server had to access its disc in the shared storage environment. This means the server administrator does not need to contact the storage administrator and re-program the storage environment.

If you adopt the policy of booting your operating system from the shared storage environment, you can complete the picture and achieve the ultimate flexibility of a stateless server architecture that allows you to move your OS and applications between servers with the ease of a virtualized solution.

This can make managing your remaining bare metal applications and the infrastructure for your virtualized environments a dream compared to what you have to do today. Additionally, you can attain more sophisticated capabilities using this same technology to achieve dramatically simplified N+1 high availability and disaster recovery.

If you are intrigued with the infrastructure management value of these solutions, I encourage you to check out some of the new products on the market today—look for those that are agnostic to the underlying infrastructure, can manage heterogeneous environments, and streamline management through automation and an easy to use UI.

About the author
Scott Geng is CTO and Executive Vice President of Engineering at Egenera, and has been instrumental in the design and development of the company's Processing Area Network (PAN). Prior to joining Egenera, Geng managed the development of leading-edge operating systems and middleware products for Hitachi Computer Products and was consulting engineer for the OSF/1 1.3 micro-kernel release by Open Software Foundation. He holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees in computer science from Boston University.

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