Thursday, March 19, 2015

Trending: Storage Virtualization

A continuing theme in the storage industry these days is Software-Defined-Storage (SDS). Though Software-Defined-anything is often simply a marketing label applied to anything that has software as part of the product, in the storage industry if refers to the degree to which a product truly virtualizes underlying storage capacity, performance, operations and management.

Expanding Explosion of Big Data
The onslaught of data being produced on the planet is growing larger every day. Every two years, the amount of data collected doubles. Increasing analytical sophistication plus real-time datasets from the Internet of Things will significantly add to the flood. Despite continued advances in storage density and speed, SDS solutions are desperately needed to facilitate infrastructure build-out, increase utilization and vanquish storage management complexity.

Bridging Disparate Environments
Smart SDS must grapple with heterogeneous hardware and software configurations, including the challenge of spanning on-site and public clouds seamlessly. Consistent, less complex storage interfaces promise to converge the underlying disparities in devices, interconnects and even geographic location; which will in turn simplify the application of enterprise IT policies.

Virtual SANs
A significant step toward solving such problems, represented by VMware’s recent release of vSAN software and their upcoming release of VVOL, is to inject change into the underlying paradigm in storage virtualization’s interaction with VMs.

Instead of the VM essentially inheriting low-level properties of the storage array, such as LUNs and NAS mount points, the VM allocates its own storage object that abstracts away those finer points. Via VMware vStorage APIs, VAAI and VASA, the VM interacts with the storage system directly. The storage unit from the VM side is not a LUN but a storage container complete with metadata, services and data store.

Hyperscale Storage
Another approach to improving cost and performance of storage virtualization is the software-centric Open Compute Project, whose aim is to eliminate proprietary, all-in-one server technology whose cost scales poorly in massive data centers, such as those run by Google, Facebook and Yahoo. The server hardware is disaggregated, simplified, standardized and controlled by license-free software where most of the intelligence resides.

Rather than single units of storage being shared by multiple VMs, both bottom-tier conventional bulk storage and top-tier flash storage reside in the same server cluster, which are shared amongst the micro-server components. The whole thing is held together, abstracted and managed by the top software layer for the rack.

Hard Technology Developments
Software-defined anything requires cheaper, faster, more intelligent hardware beneath it in order to drive advances higher in the stack. Solid state and hybrid storage are enabled by All-Flash-Arrays and Software-enhanced Flash Cache for the highest performance tier.

These, along with inline data reduction capabilities, are boosting storage server performance to new levels while simplifying load management. Higher speed interconnects and remote direct memory access network protocols further support wide-area storage virtualization and advanced computational models.

Poised on the Cusp of Change
All in all, the storage industry appears to be approaching an historical inflection point as true software defined storage emerges and storage, compute and networking capabilities reach new heights in performance and scale.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Product Highlight: VMware Certified Professional (VCP) - Cloud Practice Test (30 Day Online Access)

VCP Cloud Practice Exam

Preparing for a test can be harder than taking the test itself. Finding a study method that works for you and imagining how it will be applied in test format can be a challenge, no matter what the topic. Studying for the VCP-Cloud exam is certainly no exception. Through the VCP-Cloud practice test from MeasureUp, you have the opportunity to practice your test-taking skills using tools that provide an accurate simulation of the exam.

The Test
The VMware VCP-Cloud practice exam by MeasureUp, the Official VMware Practice Test, provides an easy to use practice test format. Throughout the mock assessment, you will be allowed to review and build your knowledge through the test’s detailed answers and references, study and timed certification modes with instant feedback on how you performed. With 30 day online access, you will have access to this practice test for 30 days from the date you activate the practice test on the MeasureUp platform. The activation code is good for one year from date of purchase from VMware Certification Marketplace.

Basic Experience
Candidates seeking VCP-Cloud certification are typically infrastructure personnel who have worked with vCloud Director Implementations from anywhere between three to six months. They should know how to install and configure ESXi hosts and use the VMware vCenter to monitor, manage, troubleshoot and administer virtual machines. These topics are also covered in the practice test.

Topics Covered
The practice exam contains 240 questions covering a variety of topics, adding up to a large amount of specialized subjects that need to be studied and mastered. The practice exam covers the following objectives:

  • Plan, Install, Configure and Upgrade vCenter Server and VMware ESXi - 12 questions
  • Plan and Configure vSphere Networking - 20 questions
  • Plan and Configure vSphere Storage - 12 questions
  • Deploy and Administer Virtual Machines and vApps - 18 questions
  • Establish and Maintain Service Levels - 14 questions
  • Perform Basic Troubleshooting and Alarm Management - 12 questions
  • Monitor a vSphere Implementation and Manage vCenter Server Alarms - 8 questions
  • Install and Configure vCloud Director - 14 questions
  • Administer Users, Roles and Privileges in a vCloud - 4 questions
  • Configure and Maintain vCenter Chargeback - 6 questions
  • Configure and Administer vCloud Networking - 55 questions
  • Configure and Administer vCloud Organizations - 12 questions
  • Allocate and Manage vCloud Resources - 24 questions
  • Create and Administer vCloud Catalogs - 12 questions
  • Monitor Cloud Utilization - 17 questions

After purchasing the MeasureUp practice test, which you can purchase here, your chances of success on the actual exam will grow immensely. You will be provided with the knowledge needed to pass, while simultaneously decreasing test anxiety. Be confident and prepared for the next big step in your virtualization career!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

2015: Time to Focus on the Cloud

It is predicted that as of this year, 90% of enterprises will have hybrid cloud services in place. Taken at face value, this sounds as if the battle is over for enterprise IT and the migration to SaaS, PaaS or IaaS is all but accomplished. However, for many IT departments, it simply means they have only begun to fight by migrating at least one software service, such as email, to public infrastructure.

The reality is that integration of cloud services will become the standard, sooner rather than later. Those enterprises that delay adoption, while the trend accelerates, will find themselves mired in an inefficient paradigm of managing in-house compute resources while competitors reap the advantages of flexible and extendible services residing in the cloud.

Man Holding Cloud

Benefits of Cloud Migration
Moving to a cloud paradigm spells opportunity for most businesses. The benefits are many:

  • Reduction of expenditures in capital equipment
  • Ability to rapidly scale compute costs to meet growth projections or point events
  • Elimination of maintenance, update and recovery expenses
  • An increasingly connected, agile mobile workforce
  • Increased security and data control

Cloud migration, however, is not simply a matter of throwing a switch. Like any strategic move, there are tradeoffs. For instance, organizations must weigh the benefits of being able to rapidly respond to their market, with the detriment of giving up some control of application customization.

First Steps to Migration
One universal problem that has plagued IT departments before “cloud” entered the organization’s lexicon is still applicable: what to do with legacy applications. These are built upon assumptions about the environment in which they operate regarding software and hardware platforms, network infrastructure, security and monitoring. This situation leaves IT with an important decision: Should such applications be deployed first to a private cloud or go straight to a public cloud deployment?

Public versus Private Cloud
The decision whether to go private or public is guided by these factors:

  • Service Demand – A private cloud is appropriate if demand is predictable and steady. If there is high variance, a hybrid or 100 percent public cloud approach makes sense.
  • Network Requirements – Organizations requiring access only via specific networks or vendors cannot take advantage of public cloud services effectively.
  • Application Dependencies – Enterprise applications with tight dependencies on specific devices or internal applications have the most difficulty in migrating to public cloud services.

Sub-Hybridization of Apps
IT departments overwhelmed by the scope of changes to analyze and act upon might consider taking smaller steps than wholesale migration of apps and services to any cloud - private or public. Hybridizing a single application in order to retain control over core features, while taking advantage of the flexibility of resources public cloud vendors offer, is one way to do this.

One example where this works is to retain a proprietary database within the organization infrastructure while "virtualizing” the interface to these data on servers located geographically closer to customers. Gradually, remote data caches can be added to improve responsiveness before converting to a fully distributed database.

Delaying Adoption Places You Squarely Behind the Curve
The challenges to moving to a cloud infrastructure are formidable but certainly not insurmountable. Delaying decisions because of lack of knowledge, skills or legacy drags your business behind the surging transition to cloud services. Rather, put your organization’s focus on the long-term benefits:

  • Network and device autonomy
  • Employee and customer IT self-service
  • Resource elasticity to meet changing market demands
  • Increased customer touch by a mobile workforce
  • Higher collaboration potential among employees

The bottom line is a decrease in overhead and complexity with an increase in business productivity.