The Next Frontier of Data Center Virtualization: Flash in the Era of Distributed Storage

A Deeper Dive into the Capabilities of OCZ’s VXL 1.2 Software Delivering the Next Revolution of Storage Architectures for Virtualized Environments

Allon Cohen, PhD
Oded Ilan
Scott Harlin

Published November 2012

Introduction

As more and more data centers reap the benefits of flash, server virtualization is heading towards its next revolution – treating host-based flash as an integral ingredient of the virtualized environment and utilizing it as a high-performance shared resource. IT managers are coming to realize that flash resources can and should be treated in exactly the same way that virtualized CPU and memory resources are handled, and not as a dedicated resource of a local host. Optimally, flash resources should be dynamically provisioned according to the needs of several to hundreds of Virtual Machines (VMs) in a single environment. With flash becoming an intrinsic part of the virtual environment, IT professionals are facing a new challenge in the evolution of storage and flash virtualization.

With the general availability of its next release of VXL Storage Acceleration and Virtualization Software (Version 1.2), OCZ Technology Group launched the next-generation of flash integration architectures for virtualized data centers that can be implemented today. This new release combines advanced application-optimized caching with distributed volume virtualization of on-host flash that enables such key virtualization services as synchronous mirroring, High Availability (HA), end-to-end Fault Tolerance (FT), and vMotion™ (without the loss of cache data).

Acceleration Application
Figure 1
Acceleration, Resiliency, Resource Sharing and Ubiquity represent the four key requirements of flash-based SSDs for virtualized data centers.

VXL delivers the ‘next frontier’ of flash virtualization by treating flash as a virtual resource and dynamically distributing OCZ Z-Drive R4 PCIe Solid-State Drive (SSD) flash across application VMs based on need to maximize performance. Though the PCIe SSD is located in one server, the flash resources can be shared amongst any application VM that resides on this server or on other servers in the virtualized cluster. By transparently distributing unallocated flash as a dynamic cache resource, VXL assures optimal flash utilization at all times, regardless of how many VMs are running concurrently.

This white paper provides a deeper dive into the differentiated capabilities of VXL and addresses the software’s ability to deliver advanced virtualized services for site/data recovery, live VM migration, and the dynamic sharing of the SSD flash resources by any VM in the virtualized cluster. As many server applications rely on storage devices to provide critical services, VXL is designed to not only move data onto host-based flash to achieve performance improvements, and efficiently utilize host resources, but also to provide those storage services critical to enterprise applications running anywhere across the virtualized data center as depicted in Figure 1.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Data Overload Problem
  3. The VXL Software Solution
  4. Advanced Virtualized Services Without a SAN
  5. VMware vMotion Support
  6. Remote Consolidated Management
  7. Conclusion