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Software-Defined Infrastructure – and Software-Defined Storage – In VMware Environments

24 Oct 2017 by Diana Rose Brandon

Legacy IT infrastructure wasn’t designed to support the demands of today’s business. Companies transforming their data centres with Software-Defined Infrastructure (SDI) are gaining a competitive edge by lowering capital requirements, simplifying and automating IT functions, and supporting the personalisation and cloud-based services customers expect. Virtualisation helps businesses overcome traditional data centre challenges such as manual processes, inflexible systems that require specialised components, and the resulting patchwork of security processes and management tactics.

Using the right architecture is key to lowering operating expenses and obtaining the most value from the data centre. VMware Virtual SAN extends the value of virtualisation by providing software-defined storage as an element of VMware Hyperconverged Software (VMware HCS), which also includes VMware vSphere and VMware vCenter Server.

A closer look at SDI

As shown in Figure 1, below, SDI is comprised of virtualised, automated and orchestrated resource pools of compute, network and storage. These pools are built on servers with Intel processors, network adapters and Solid State Drives (SSDs), and managed with VMware solutions. 

A chart showing the solution architecture of the software-defined data center and software-defined infrastructure

Figure 1

By presenting the right infrastructure based on application needs, SDI enables faster provisioning at a lower cost. In an SDI, IT defines application and operational policies, while orchestration software automates provisioning and configuration to meet business needs.

Decoupling hardware from software, Virtual SAN does away with siloed storage and can accommodate any app at any scale. The full VMware HCS stack is highly optimised for Intel architecture and takes advantage of existing IT skill sets. In just a few clicks, provisioning, configuration and de-provisioning of compute and storage are handled together, on a per-Virtual Machine (VM) basis.

A closer look at software-defined storage

VMware Virtual SAN and Intel architecture enable a software-defined storage solution that is tailored to the needs of the Software-Defined Data Centre (SDDC)/SDI. It addresses common limitations associated with traditional storage in terms of architecture, hardware and the overall operational approach.

To resolve siloed storage resources and scale-up limitations, Virtual SAN provides software-defined storage embedded in vSphere for integrated management with the rest of
the virtual environment — all from a single console pane. The distributed architecture scales from two to 64 hosts per cluster, enabling scale-out performance and capacity.

Virtual SAN also uses standard, off-the-shelf, Intel architecture-based servers, taking advantage of years of joint engineering between Intel and VMware to deliver high optimisation an regular technology updates.

Operationally, Virtual SAN adds flexibility and simplicity with policy-driven management as part of the vSphere environment — no additional software installation is required. Geographically dispersed, heterogeneous storage resources are pooled and centrally controlled from the vSphere web client. Routine tasks, including provisioning, configuration and maintaining storage SLAs, are automated.

The solution is optimised for an all-flash architecture for both the cache and capacity tiers of the data centre environment. It can also be deployed using a hybrid architecture that combines flash-based, SSDs and magnetic disks. In either case, a flash-based caching tier acts as a read/write buffer to reduce latency to predictable, sub-millisecond levels without compromising processor resources, memory or VM consolidation.

To help customers accelerate Virtual SAN deployment, Intel and VMware have developed Intel Server Products for Cloud — VSAN Ready Nodes. VSAN Ready Nodes from Intel are pre-configured, tested and certified for VMware Virtual SAN. Based on the VMware VSAN profiles, VSAN Ready Nodes are optimally configured for each workload with the required amount of CPU, memory, network, I/O controllers and storage.

The Intel Server Boards and Chassis, Intel Xeon processors, Intel SSDs and third-party memory included in VSAN Ready Nodes are optimised for maximum performance with VMware Virtual SAN. Customers also benefit from a simplified procurement model that includes a single order code and a single source of support.

Benefits of a software-defined infrastructure

In the SDDC/SDI model, all infrastructure — including compute, network and storage — is delivered as a set of virtualised services on general-purpose servers based on Intel architecture, eliminating acquisition and maintenance costs of special-purpose hardware.

The combination of Virtual SAN and Intel architecture is engineered to provide a simple-to-manage environment that delivers high performance and scalability up to 64 nodes and 6400 VMs, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) savings, and freedom of choice for customers to use their preferred Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and server vendors.

Virtual SAN and Intel architecture help organisations accelerate operations through an infrastructure that automatically responds to changing business needs, providing increased agility, high availability and rapid deployment of new services. Virtual SAN can deliver up to six nines of availability (99.9999%), which equates to less than 32 seconds of downtime per year.

Additionally, Virtual SAN Stretched Clusters allow a single cluster to span multiple geographic sites, with data replicated synchronously across high-bandwidth, low-latency WAN links. This capability enables uninterrupted operations even in the event of a failure that encompasses a complete site.

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